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


Gift cards have always been a great way to bring new shoppers into your store – but during the COVID-19 crisis, they have become an important way for customers to show their support.  Buying a gift card today is in essence providing a small loan to a favorite small businesses, payable at a later date… Read More


One of the recommended antidotes to anxiety during these trying times is to reach out to help someone, and there are countless examples of people and companies doing just that.  In the gift industry, several of our vendors have pivoted to use their manufacturing facilities for the production of much needed medical supplies. As Caroline… Read More


Dozens of emails from our vendors have landed in my inbox over the past week stating how concerned they are about the impact of COVID-19 on independent retailers.  To be truthful, I am concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on my vendors – but I realize that keeping stores alive will help us both. What… Read More