It’s one thing to consider the results of national opinion polls – but every state, every community, every shopping district and even every retail store is slightly different from all the others.  The best source of information about what your customers want is your customers.  They “vote” every time that they’re in the store with… Read More


One of the biggest controversies facing retail stores reopening during the era of COVID-19 is whether to require customers to wear face masks.  Many states and municipalities make a recommendation about mask wearing, but stay clear of any enforceable requirement.  That lands the decision squarely on the shoulders of business owners, and quite frankly there’s… Read More


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… Read More


Like many people, I’d never used Zoom before COVID-19. I now have as many as three Zoom meetings a day, and I’m not alone. According to a late April, 2020 article on The Verge, “Zoom usage has soared from 10 million daily meeting participants back in December to 300 million this month.” I finally broke… Read More


Mark Zuckerberg announced on May 19 that his company will soon be rolling out Facebook Shops as a way for small stores to market to consumers through Facebook and Instagram.  With the restrictions that we’re facing in the ways we are able do business during the pandemic, this is welcome news even to those of… Read More


Hand washing has been elevated to heroic status as we try to limit the spread of COVID-19 – and as our stores reopen, it is clear that frequent hand washing and other cleaning protocols are essential in keeping our employees safe as well as our customers.  The ideas below are based on what we know today, however… Read More


Shopping has never gone away – despite the challenges of COVID-19, most of us can find whatever we need (or want) online.  But what is missing is the pleasurable experience of browsing before we buy.   In a recent survey of what small thing people miss the most, I was surprised at how often grocery… Read More


Many of our stores are closed at the moment, causing an unplanned separation from our staff and our customers.  Orange Tree Imports celebrated its 45th anniversary on May 1, which normally would be cause for an open house, special offers, refreshments, and a staff reunion for the 250 or so people who have worked for… Read More


The definition of “essential” for a retail store during the pandemic seems to vary a great deal from state to state – the craft beer store across the street from us is considered a priority here in Wisconsin, whereas bookstores are not.  My friend Amy Moore, owner of Little Luxuries on State Street in Madison,… Read More


There is so much confusion about grants and programs available to small businesses at the moment, and things change quickly as the money runs low.  But I want to make sure that independent retailers know there are some potential sources of assistance beyond the well-publicized (and controversial) federal Small Business Administration loans. A recent article… Read More