Being the top retailer after this pandemic may feel like being king of the ashes. Independent and particularly small retailers are facing bankruptcy, and consumers are spending their time online or shopping at major chains like Costco or Walmart. There has been some talk of opening up some stores in the weeks to come that could help small retailers like Mystic Owl Tattoo. But consumers will still be wary, and spending will fall. In the worst-case scenario, retailers may find themselves in an even worse situation as a trickle of consumers coming in cannot pay for normal operating costs.
But that does not mean that every single small retailer is doomed. While there is no surefire path to success under these circumstances, here are a few things which owners should consider for their business during this pandemic.
Help your Employees
Relationships between employer and employee can be particularly fraught, especially as government aid distorts the market. CNBC reported on a spa owner who received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, only to be confronted with irate employees who calculated that unemployment would pay better than their current wages.
But even with the high unemployment rate, your business needs your workers because you know that you can trust them. Even if you cannot pay them and even if you have to lay them off, there are still ways to help them. Offer to help them file for unemployment and give good references to employees taking a temporary job.
The Community is in this together
Small retailers will need help from their local community to survive, and in turn must show that they are a part of said community. Helping now will show that your business is empathetic, and more importantly shows that your business has not been destroyed by this disease.
We have seen businesses temporarily offer some of their services for free or at a reduced price. For example, online class organizations have been offering major discounts for individuals stuck at home and newspapers have allowed non-subscribers to access coronavirus-related articles.
If you can do things like this, make sure to publicize such efforts online and through social media. A small discount or donation now could create a big payoff in goodwill and marketing over the long term.
Planning for the post-coronavirus world may sound crazy. We do not know what that world is going to look like or when it is going to arrive. And businesses should look to hunker down and prepare to weather this long storm.
But another perspective is that this is a chance to reassess your business from the ground up. You have more time now, and you should use that time to figure out which processes in your business are being handled poorly. If your business has been forced to shrink, can you remove the red tape and unnecessary expenses which accumulate as a business expands?
These are not going to be easy times for small retailers, and there are going to be mass closures and economic devastation for months if not years. But by planning ahead, improving processes, and earning the respect of employees and the community, small retailers can try to survive.