Retail and COVID-19: surviving the lockdown

COVID-19 has forced us indoors and away from the shops. Leaving retail with very little lifeline.

The list of stores deemed essential - supermarkets and pharmacies - is tiny compared to the list of nonessential stores. In hindsight, they should have had a contingency plan in place. But no one saw this coming, so why would you prepare one?

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If you’re a retail business owner you’re likely facing two chronic challenges: supply chain disruption and delivering products to customers.

Let’s dig into the problems and see if we can give you a solution or two.

Supply chain disruption

China might be out of lockdown and clawing its way out of manufacturing disruption but the rest of the world is suffering under its full weight. There are serious restrictions on the delivery of goods. Border lockdowns delay deliveries meaning companies can’t get products to customers as quickly as they used to. And airlines across Europe have all but closed down meaning the transport of goods usually carried by passenger airlines is backing up daily.

To make matters worse, frightened people stock-piled toilet paper, rice and tinned food early in the pandemic forcing the usually well-drilled system into unprecedented shortages and backlog, making deliveries, manufacturing and supplies expensive for you, your customers and your wholesalers.

Small business owners feel the strain more so than the back by large banks, corporate beasts. Although, there could be a hidden benefit to this. As the supply chain from the east gets squeezed and larger companies get first access to products, SMEs across Europe are seeking smaller suppliers in their local area.

Other SMEs are working in partnership with large distributors in their area. Although this is cutting their margins they are still able to fulfil customer orders - which means they stay in business and could even grow.

How do I find local distributors and suppliers?

You can contact your national or local government for a list of suppliers and distributors. You may find some vendors are struggling to ship products out so may even make discounts and deals with you. Everyone is in this together and this is another perfect example of how we can work together.

And while you’re waiting for business to get back to normal, you could be on the lookout for alternative financing options like a line of credit or credit stretch.

Get online

If you’ve still not set your store up online, now is absolutely the time to do it. Physical retail stores have been slowly losing market share over the past few years. Toys R Us didn’t wake up to the power of the internet and they lost.

The writing was on the wall for them. Don’t let your store follow them into retail store heaven.

Thankfully, getting your retail business online fast is possible. Let’s explore your options. 

Shopify

We believe that Shopify is THE BEST e-commerce platform, period! And for SMEs, there are no other options. Shopify is now the second-largest e-commerce company on earth, behind Amazon. And while on their way to superstardom they helped gargantuan e-commerce stores - like Gymshark, Allbirds and Kylie Jenner - grow from zero to Billions of dollars per year in sales.

Head over to Shopify and get set up on their simple to use platform. Select a pre-designed theme and you could have your brand new online store set up within the next few days.

Amazon

Sell directly to Amazon to get direct access to Billions of customers, anywhere in the world. You can do this easily by setting up a store on their easy to use framework.

Delivery companies

If you’re not yet set up for delivering online orders, there are many third-party providers that handle part or all of the process. Do a quick search in your area and check out nationwide services such as GLS, DHL, UPS, Postnord and many more.

Keep everyone safe (if you’re allowed to open)

The social distancing measures are likely to remain partly in force long after this lockdown is over. So even if you’re not allowed to open right now, it still might be worth your time reading through the next section on safety and sanitation.

If you’re in an industry that’s still operating during the lockdown, keeping your customers safe is a challenge you’ve never dealt with before. The WHO recommends developing a thorough strategy to halt the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in your store. Focus your strategy on reducing transmission between employees, maintaining healthy business operations, and a healthy working environment.

The WHO, and national news, give out daily updates on the virus symptoms. Make sure your employees know all of the information. If they’re feeling a little ill, make sure they stay home. I’d recommend taking your employees’ temperature daily - many businesses in the U.K. have done that with great success.

The British government recommends cleaning with soap and water first and then disinfecting with diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 per cent alcohol. 

In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a list of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.

Make sure the cleaning staff wear disposable gloves and protective gear. Even for handling waste. If someone in your store tests positive, the WHO recommends you minimize exposure by sealing off the area for 24 hours.

Make sure you keep your customers informed of the measure you’re taking. Doing so should give them confidence that you’ve got their interests at heart. Show the measures on social media. Write a blog post about it and post updates on your website.

Although physical retail has been one of the hardest-hit industries, there is still hope for you. Ecommerce companies have boomed throughout the lockdown. And with customers spending their commuting budget on new products, now could actually be a great time to start selling online.

Good luck!

Joseph Pack

CMO at CreditStretcher. Nice to meet you!

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