Since March 2, 2020, The ROI's Co-Founders have been offering insights, strategic approaches, and online resources for independent retailers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
These appeared first in The ROI NEWS.
There are three "pandemics" assailing us at the moment: the coronavirus; the economic collapse; the protests of racial injustice. The three months plus of stay at home restrictions and the shutdowns, and the confluence of these three pandemics has been a heavy burden. And it shows no signs of going away anytime soon.
As the coronavirus continues to spread and surge (Apple re-closing 11 stores they had recently re-opened is a sobering reminder), the uncertainty and anxiety is only being prolonged.
It's not just retail owners who are unsettled by all this. So are your customers! Few people are drawn to a constant state of uncertainty. (Ever noticed those who skip ahead to the last chapter, or seek out "spoiler alerts"?)
Here's the opportunity amidst all this uncertainty: When "Everything is changing," when "Nobody expects to 'go back to normal'," what better time to reinvent your operation? Now's the time to make sure that the business is working for you, the owner.
Maybe as you've gradually re-opened, it has been on a very reduced schedule (eg, 5 days per week – Wednesday through Sunday – 8 hours a day. Key staff are working full time; online sales are happening 24/7.) Why rush to expand those hours? Just because that's what we used to do? Hmm. Maybe not.
Also, what about your vendors? Which vendors do you most want to continue with? Grow with? And yes, which vendors or lines or categories are you most comfortable letting slip away Customers will be understanding.
Think about one or two restaurants you frequent. As they have re-opened, how has their menu changed? What's gone? What's featured more? What does that suggest about their thinking?
Actually, the same applies to your customers. Which customer groups do you most want to serve? How much is it costing your business – in time, money, resources – to attract and serve those groups? Might there be customer groups you could just assign to the "surrender school of marketing": if they come in, fine. Just don't spend anything pursuing them.
What else might need to be re-invigorated? How about your staff? How might you take better advantage of their talents and strengths? Or, is it time to bring in some new people?
In retailing, change always has been the name of the game. And now, 2020 has amplified that many times over.
For the savvy retailer, these unprecedented times offer an overriding excuse, a wonderful cover, for any and all changes in your business,
There will be no better time in our lifetimes to rewrite the script for your stores.Not only what you want, but what do your primary customers really want from your stores?
Let's assume your stores have been closed for weeks now.
We recognize how conscientious you are. So, after paying what you can to your employees (and yourself), the next most-worrisome dilemma is your rent.
As you likely have discovered, a common choice for many landlords is to offer to defer your payments. But that means taking on more debt, as those payments are only being postponed to a later point in time.
You need a better solution than that.
There’s an awareness, an “Oh wow!” sweeping around the commercial world. It’s stated in a variety of ways, but it’s the same surprise.
Indeed, some respected urban thinkers are suggesting that 50% of the traditional commuters may want to and will be encouraged to continue to work remotely. 50%?! Yikes. That’s quite a redirection of the parade!
Remember thinking that Amazon was the most disruptive force to happen to retailing? (Well, at least since Walmart was the most disruptive....)
However, the coronavirus pandemic eclipses them all. No matter where you live or do business, it is not whether, just when, COVID-19 will impact your life. Disruption with a capital D!
Like every natural disaster, whether a massive storm, earthquake, wildfire, we all are victims of COVID-19.
Not all of us have suffered being infected by the virus. But, essentially everybody has suffered losses.
Few have been spared.
That's a sign of the times, isn't it?
While retailers are more accustomed than most folks to cope with change, 2020's unrelenting flexibility tests have been a challenge. Forget about five years. Retailers have to be ready for the next five months! It's back-to-school and then Holiday.
The only certainty about the next five months is that they will probably feel like the past five months. Yet you still must run a retail business. And that means you still must buy and sell merchandise.
The opportunities – and the pressures – are mounting.
Each of us, our households, businesses and communities are in different stages of shutdown due to the coronavirus.
While we cannot speak to when this will end, we do have some ideas for dealing with the "fog of uncertainty" that hangs over us all.
Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"