How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
The impact on our business has been significant. Financially, everything started to crumble right after we had received our Easter/Spring/summer goods. This is our second highest accounts payable season, behind Christmas. We were not able to sell the Easter goods and we missed the selling window on many other items as well. We did some curbside pickup business but it was only about 10% of our typical sales for that period. Thankfully we have a loyal customer base and they are coming back after our two month closure.
How have you been able to remain open and what challenges have you faced?
We closed on March 23. With the news reports and so much uncertainty about the rate of contagion we felt we should close while cases were on the uptick. We did some business using Facebook Messenger as an instant chat from home for two weeks and then we brought staff into the building and added phone ordering. We were basically personal shoppers and with Facebook Messenger we could send photos of items to customers. It was a lot of work for roughly 10% of usual sales. When we opened our doors on May 19 we were happy to see our customer counts rebound almost immediately.
What have you learned over the past couple of months regarding your business?
Over the past few months, we learned that our business is just as impulse motivated as we thought. When people were able to order only what they wanted our sales suffered miserably. When we were able to bring back only a small staff to reopen, we realized that we were overstaffed before we closed. We had more layers of staff than we need to run efficiently, and I think other business owners may come to this realization too. If so, it will make it more difficult for people to get back to work.
How have you been communicating with your customers?
We have been communicating with our customers via social media using Facebook and Instagram. We believe people have been in front of their screens much more than usual, out of boredom. We want to be in front of them.
Are you finding new methods to stay profitable?
As far as new methods to stay profitable, we have made no changes except realizing that we do not need the staffing levels we were carrying so that will translate to better profitability.
What steps have you taken to best position your business for re-opening?
We are now open and found that offering customers a way to do some business with us and stay connected was key in a successful reopening.
What steps have you taken to ensure the safety of your employees?
During the weeks that we were closed we watched the big retailers carefully. We made note of the issues they had and the changes they instituted as the situation evolved. We also researched on our own and we were able to educate the employees we brought back before we opened our doors to the public. We built barriers between staff and customers, instituted cleaning and sanitation procedures and made other changes to create a safer environment for employees and staff.