Retail in the Time of COVID

covid-19 Feb 21, 2021

It is now the year 2021 and we’ve been living with the global pandemic of COVID-19 hanging over us for some time now. The global lockdowns and quarantines have affected every single industry that exists; retail and sales being among the most impacted.

We’ve gone through many changes, experienced many harrowing events, and somehow settled into what we now call ‘a new normal’. As part of this ‘new normal’, shops are slowly opening and we are all learning in real-time, what it takes for retail to survive during a pandemic.

So, in this article, we will lay out what we think are the five most important things to consider for retail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Protect your Staff

There’s a reason this point comes before your customers. The reason is that without staff who feel looked after and protected during these uncertain times, there would be no one to run your store. Or at the very least, you would have a high turnover rate, which can be very expensive in the long term.

Some measures to protect them can include a mandatory mask policy in your place of business, making hand sanitizers available, and being flexible about leave for COVID emergencies. Another less talked about measure is doing your best to ensure job security. Jobless during a pandemic is a very dangerous position to be in. Salary cuts beyond survivability also falls under the same category.

So, do your part to protect your staff, who in turn work hard to protect the financial stability of you and your loved ones. It’s the right thing to do, it can result in more loyal staff, and it saves you money.

2. Protect your Customers

This one goes without saying, but let’s say it and delve into the ‘why’ of it all. Why is it important to protect your customers? How can you do it? Let’s discuss.

The ‘why’ comes in two flavors; an ethical reason and a financial reason. The ethical reason is that the pandemic is a public health issue and as members of the public, it is up to us to do our part to protect each other from infection and from viral spread. The financial reason is that healthy customers can continue shopping and thus, are more lucrative. Plus, these days, customer buying behavior has changed such that they are more health and safety conscious. So, if you want them to visit, you should take steps to protect from COVID-19.

Some of the ways to do this again include providing hand sanitizers and a mandatory mask policy. You can also limit the customers that can enter the store at one time. This can also reduce risk of contact.

3. Offer Online Options

Do you have an online storefront? If not, why not? It is the digital age and every customer and their mum have smartphones through which they can conduct many parts of their lives through the internet with. They get their news online, they order food online, they shop online, they do their taxes online, and they even consume entertainment online. Doesn’t this seem like a space you’d want to enter?

The pandemic has showed us that stores with online options outperformed stores without by a wide margin. They were able to reach their customers right at home and continue their relationship. Some shops that existed as online-only entities found themselves uniquely prepared for the ‘new normal’.

This is what we should all be doing. The infrastructure to incorporate our stores into the internet already exists. Platforms like WooCommerce are right there for anyone to use. We’ve all seen how unstable the world can be, so why not prepare by establishing an online presence to maintain that connection whatever comes our way?

4. Invest in Delivery

The stores that performed the best during the height of COVID-19 in 2020 were stores that had invested in delivery. Amazon made a stunning 10.7 billion in profits during the pandemic, which really says it all, doesn’t it?

Whether it is delivery in person or via mail, now is the best time to invest in it. Not only can you test out your investment in real-time, you can also course correct to find the solution best for your store. Whether it is hiring more staff, investing in packaging for delivery, or creating a partnership with an international delivery service, you can find many ways to up the scale and reach of your deliveries. This pairs nicely with the increased online options we mentioned just now.

Of course, the safety of delivery staff should also be considered. But that was point 1, so we’re sure you get it by now.

5. Manage Expectations

This last one is aimed at the higher-level staff. From supervisors to team leaders to managers to the owners, it is very important to manage expectations during this time. We are in a ‘new normal’ now, so our expectations also need to be reset on a lot of things.

For instance, the sales we get might be less than before due to lockdown conditions. However, the amount sold per sale might go up due to people needing to stockpile. Additionally, pushing your staff too hard during this time can also result in internal conflict and inefficiency. Everyone is going through a tough time and stress levels are at an all-time high, so consider an empathy first approach.

The last thing to think about is that we are in a crisis with no end in sight. We do have vaccines, but at the same time, there is news of a new strain being found. It is a scary time and we don’t fully know how long it will be before we can return to how things used to be, if we even can.

A very bleak outlook, perhaps. But the point we’re making is that you should manage your expectations of how long we will be suffering under COVID-19. Be open to changes and challenges that may unexpectedly come your way. Work with your staff and you can find your way through it.

Those are the five points we thought were necessary to think about if you are in the retail industry in the time of COVID-19. This pandemic has changed society as we know it and we don’t yet know how much it will keep changing it.

It is up to us to use our best judgment, put empathy first, be health and safety conscious, and protect each other from the virulent threat that still ravages the planet. The only way through this is together and by thinking on our collective feet. So, if you’re in retail, give these points a thought.

While you’re here, why not check out Ewity, our easy-to-use, easy-to-learn, cloud-based POS system. It can further ease the burden and pressure on your staff while giving you the tools you need to grow your business.

You can try it out for free right here.