The first four months of 2020 have been pretty tough for retailers. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us into an uncertain world and forced closures for some tackle stores. But those retailers will have to reopen their businesses eventually.

Sounds great . . . just throw on the lights and plug in the cash registers and it is business as usual. Not so fast! The old ways of doing business have probably changed permanently. 

Likely Changes to Retail After COVID-19

The world has had to conduct business with great emphasis on using a digital platform. Most purchases were initiated on line. Amazon had to hire approximately 200,000 additional employees just to handle the increased business. Suddenly the public was forced into buying their groceries, footwear, apparel, entertainment and the daily necessities of living via digital shopping.

Whereas online shopping accounted for about 20% of retail sales in 2019, it is projected that internet based sales may account for 50% to 60% of retail volume for the next several years. In other words, the world has changed and perhaps so permanently.

So, here’s the situation. Come June or July, the government says, “Okay, retailers, open your doors and have at it.” Don’t necessarily expect the consumers to come rushing in holding globs of money. The public has learned to survive while fulfilling all there needs through internet shopping or call in and pick up at curbside.

The community will not quickly ditch their new found safety habits, i.e. social distancing, avoid crowds, disinfect virtually everything and, of course, wear gloves and a face mask whenever shopping. Now, it sounds so convenient just to sit in your PJ’s and order what you need online and have it arrive at your door step the next day.

Preparing Yourself for the New World

Okay, Okay, Robbie I got your point. So specifically, what do I need to do to successfully re-enter the retail environment and generate meaningful profits? The starting point is to fully appreciate the fact that the old retail formula might be forever transformed. 

Whereas, in the past you might have pretty much ignored internet based competition, now you should probably embrace it with gusto. The internet is no longer your competition, it’s your necessary form of advertising, communication and sales generation.

Am I saying that you have to close your store and solely sell via the net? No, but I am saying that your ultimate success will require some considerable planning and changes, many of which will require a whole new perspective and use of the internet. Let’s get specific Here’s my take on the required “re-entry steps.”

  • Make sure you fully understand your state’s laws and mandates as concern the Coronavirus. Opening dates and directives will differ by state, counties and areas within states.
  • Create and extensive plan detailing what you need to do inclusive of specific dates to complete the many tasks necessary to open the doors and attract the consumers.
  • Create a communications plan to detail what, when, how and by whom all communication with the public will be managed. Your plan should be in detail and with specific dates, times and who will be responsible for all aspects of the communications plan.
  • Have copious signs created and posted for store windows, curbside, front door and elsewhere announcing that your store is now open, hours of operation, phone number, your web address and “what’s new.”
  • Spend both time, thought, research, effort and money to really provide a hard hitting website. Your products, pricing, cosmetics, verbiage and rate of changes must all be attention getting. Get professional help in this regard.
  • On your website and outdoor signs, detail the customers’ many options of taking delivery of goods purchased, e.g. buy in store and take it home with you, order by phone or your website for either shipment to you or via curbside pick up.
  • Offer the customers the choice of using a drive up order window and a companion pay and pickup window much like that which is found at your average McDonald’s store.
  • Use social media sites to connect with your customers and to advertise the fact that you are open and loaded with merchandise and special sale prices.
  • Develop, advertise and communicate your extensive sanitation procedures. In addition, you might provide hand sanitizer, gloves and masks to all store shoppers. Appoint one person to head up all sanitation activities. 
  • Consider taking all employees temperature each day as they arrive for work. New devices allow for measuring one’s temperature within one second. Advertise this fact to the consuming public.
  • Update your policies as relates to customer returns, refunds and services offered so as to keep these policies relevant and in support of the stores objectives.
  • Work with your vendors regarding direct shipments, returns and other support issues. As you must change in these times, so must your vendors. Make them a part of the solution and not the problem.
  • From your vendors, obtain a lot of specials and off price deals so as to lure in the customers. 
  • Research what the big boys are doing; emulate them as needed.
  • Remain adaptive and swiftly address any concern or recognized opportunity.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created massive challenges for the public and retailers. At the same time, new opportunities will become prevalent as the economy digests our new forms of commerce. Good selling, merchants!