We are almost half way through 2020, and even if you haven’t been tracking year-to-date sales comparisons with 2019,  you know the news is not good.   Some wits have suggested unplugging 2020 and starting it over again, and while this is sadly not possible, I do think it makes sense to plan to write this year off as an anomaly in the history of your store.  

No matter what happens with COVID-19, we will have lost three solid months of in-store sales.  Stores dependent on tourist traffic are facing a summer with cancelled events and plans, and we know that with the huge number of unemployed the economy is going to take a while to recover.  This has been the most stressful time for small business owners since the Great Depression – so it’s important to keep in mind that the disruption that this year has brought is nothing you have control over.  Try to take care of yourself, and do your best while waiting it out.

While it’s hard to think that there is a bright side to COVID-19, the pandemic has taught us a few lessons.  Our shop has pivoted into being a bricks and clicks operation, which was not something we wanted – but the changes we’ve made will help us get online sales even when we’ve returned to in-store shopping.

Many store have started using Facebook live and other social media to communicate with customers in lieu of face-to-face customer service.  The new Facebook stores option may help many of us increase sales coming through the Facebook and Instagram platform.  An increased presence on social media is a good investment in a future that is heading in that direction.

We’ve  also learned from the pandemic how much we took for granted.  Seeing our employees every day, working with sales reps, going to trade shows.  These are experiences I look forward to resuming, even though it may be a while until that’s possible.  I really miss my customers, too, and the chance to show them new merchandise that has just arrived.

The Black Lives Matter protests, which are ongoing in many communities as I write this, are giving us an opportunity to find ways to prioritize social justice.  We are learning about avenues for increasing our awareness of the inequalities in our country, and for ways that our businesses can become part of the solution – even if we hadn’t thought of ourselves as part of the problem.  

Let’s consider 2020 a year apart, and give ourselves permission to relax our goals and expectations.  Instead we can concentrate on helping our business survive – while learning as much as we can from the experiences this year offers.  May we all go into 2021 stronger as a result.

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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