I’m probably not the only one who is a bit disappointed that so far 2021 is a lot like 2020.  Aside from the excitement of the coming vaccine, little has changed in terms of the way COVID-19 is impacting our businesses – and our lives.  The handy data tracker provided by the Centers for Disease Control now shows over 20 million confirmed cases in the U.S., with hospitalizations and deaths expected to increase.

There are so many factors out of our control as we head into this new year, so it would be wise to  relinquish any attempt to make meaningful plans at this time.  For the next few months, or however long it takes to get a  significant percentage of the population vaccinated, we are going to have to continue with the precautions we’ve been taking.  As the Mayo Clinic points out, “Experts want to learn more about the protection that a COVID-19 vaccine provides and how long immunity lasts before changing safety recommendations. Factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will also affect these recommendations.”

Much of our success as retailers revolves around making plans for the future, going to trade shows to source new merchandise and planning a calendar of special events for our stores.  For now, we’re just going to have to live in the moment and approach the coming months cautiously. For some this will mean mean postponing trade show trips and even meetings with sales reps.

We know this will create a crisis for many of our vendors, since they depend on early buys to determine what products will be brought in for the rest of the year.  Hopefully by the holiday season we’ll have more in-person shopping, so ordering for next fall and winter may be fairly safe. (Unfortunately for our vendors, however, some of us have a significant amount of carryover from December of 2020.)

On the bright side, most of our shops will be eligible for the new round of PPP funding recently passed by the government as part of the stimulus bill.  This will help pay for rent, utilities, payroll and insurance – but it would help our industry if we are also able to dedicate some of the money to buying new merchandise.  We depend on our vendors to create excitement in our stores with fresh products, and they can’t do that without us ordering from them.  Sales agencies and reps also need our support in order to continue to help us source the latest merchandise.

Hopefully lowering our expectations for a swift recovery from the restrictions mandated by the pandemic will help us deal calmly with the coming months.  Take good care of yourself, and your staff, to make sure everyone stays healthy.  We need to focus not on success, but on making sure that our businesses survive so we’ll be ready for the happier times to come.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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