The COVID-19 pandemic is significantly reshaping the retail landscape, albeit unevenly. Non-essential businesses like apparel and luxury brands suffered immense financial losses, while essential shops such as groceries and food deliveries saw a massive demand spike. In the U.S. alone, department store sales plunged by 19.7% in March, while clothing and clothing accessories declined by 50.5% during the same period.
On the other hand, major groceries and supermarkets such as Walmart, Costco, and Kroger saw higher demand for essential items. The U.S. Census and Bureau’s latest data showed that sales at grocery stores increased by 26.9% between February and March. Pharmacies also benefited as sales at health and personal care stores rose by 4.3% as of the same period.
The pandemic also forced businesses, especially small retailers, to close their shops for good. In fact, around 164,000 businesses in the U.S. have already closed between March and August due to the outbreak. What’s worse is that more than half of them do not plan to reopen anymore even after the pandemic subsides.
However, as more shops close, several brave entrepreneurs started reopening their stores. Some of them are even pushing through with their expansion plans. In fact, about 3,344 new stores have opened as of September of this year, according to the latest tracking data from Coresight Research.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, applications for new businesses are also rising, with over 3.2 million employer ID applications received so far.
Running a business during a crisis can be quite difficult; however, it is still doable. Here are some simple tips on how you can keep your business stay afloat in times of adversity:
1. Evaluate your business strategy and financial standing.
Communicate with your investors or stakeholders and review your business and financial strategy. Calculate your burn-rate by identifying what areas are currently costing your business huge spending and which ones may be reduced. You may have to cut budgets for unnecessary advertising campaigns, stagnant assets, and even for extra employee expenses. Such a strategy will allow you to run your business with efficiency and avoid bankruptcy.
However, if things turned out for the worst in terms of finances, you should consult a bankruptcy lawyer to help you manage debts and help you with legal proceedings.
2. Take advantage of government assistance programs.
Governments worldwide are implementing several measures that aim to help businesses, particularly independent retailers, to cope with the pandemic’s impacts. Such assistance varies from financial grants and business loans to furlough schemes and salary coverage.
Don’t hesitate to take advantage of these programs to help keep your business running in the middle of a crisis.
3. Shift to digital platforms.
More and more consumers now prefer to transact online as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread. With this, it is more than shifting to shift your business online to market your products and keep your customers engaged during the lockdown.
Expand your online presence by launching a free website where potential customers can view and purchase your products. Use social media for advertising your offerings for little to no extra cost and engage with a wider audience.
Boosting your digital footprint can keep your business visible to the public. This can help you attract and retain more customers, which, in return, can bring positive financial returns in the long run.
4. Reinvent your supply chain.
The retail supply chain has been greatly disrupted due to the limited movement of people and goods during the pandemic. Most retailers outsource their manufacturing operations in one location alone. This affected their ability to produce enough supply for consumers.
Consider revisiting your manufacturing and distribution models and plan for diversification. Look for alternative suppliers within your local community or the location nearest you. This can help you mitigate any delays and avoid further disruptions in the long run.
5. Conduct your own market research.
The current health crisis has significantly transformed consumer preferences and priorities. Survey your market and find out what products and services consumers are spending their money on. Experts observed that food, gaming, and health and wellness products had seen a massive demand spike amidst the pandemic.
Also, try to monitor the activities of your competitors. Such a strategy can assist you in making certain adjustments to your business plan. This can further help you stay relevant in the market and be one step ahead of your competitors.
6. Allow your employees to work remotely.
If possible, consider implementing remote work among your employees, especially those with tasks that do not require to be done onsite. Establishing alternative working arrangements can help you reduce office costs and protect your employees’ health during a pandemic.
While the future remains bleak, business owners, particularly independent retailers, are forced to navigate this pandemic with a blind eye. However, embracing these simple strategies can help keep your business up and running, even in the midst of global adversities.