By Georganne Bender & Rich Kizer
Retailers across the globe have been affected by the Covid-19 virus, and as you read this, your store may already be closed to the public. This checklist is to help you cover all the bases as you close.
At the Store
□ Make a thorough inspection of your sales floor. Look into every area, including service areas, cashwrap, stock room, windows, restrooms, offices, etc. Note what needs attention before you close.
□ Do a deep clean. It’s recommended that businesses do additional cleaning throughout the day when they are open, but when you close a deep clean is in order. It’s essential and you now have the time.
□ Set the sales floor in anticipation that you could reopen tomorrow. We don’t know when we will get the all clear message so it’s best to be prepared. Empty the stock room as much as you can, placing items on display on the sales floor.
You may also want to reorganize the stock room so it is neat and workable when you reopen. Fill in shelves, set new end features, add new signing, and update your speed bump displays (the ones front and center, and the first displays customers see when entering your front door) so that when you reopen your store it is fresh and ready to go.
□ Take photos of your sales floor. This way you have a record of what the store looked like when you closed. These photos will come in handy if anything happens while you are closed indefinitely.
□ Turn off all electronics that will not be used while you are closed. These items include computers, cash registers, radios, televisions, tablets used as signing, electronic vendor displays, etc.
□ Test your fire alarm and sprinkler system.
□ Set your thermostat to a safe level. You don’t want to heat or air condition the store to the level you would if it were open, but you need to keep it on to prevent freezing, mold, and to protect certain merchandise.
□ Put a sign on your front door that indicates the dates you will be closed. Keep it short and easy to read, but put your personality to work writing the copy. Include your web address, and Facebook and Instagram handles so customers know where to go to check for updates.
□ Have the post office hold your mail for pick up there. Or have it forwarded to your home temporarily.
“Do all of the things you have always put off because you never had time to devote to them because daily business got in the way. I am going to do a major floor move; major, meaning moving fixtures around, not just merchandise. Clean your stock room and take unsalable product to Goodwill. It’s a tax write off.”
– Tom Konopacki, owner Anastazia Treasures For the Home
Neil and David Ferguson, owners of Ben Franklin Crafts & Frames in Redmond, Washington, opened one morning to find their store had been robbed. They shared that many of the things they had to deal with after the robbery are also important to do during the Covid-19 crisis:
□ If you have a security system make sure that it is in working order and up to date.
□ Remove all personal valuables from the store. This includes laptops, tablets, cell phones, jewelry, art, etc.
□ Take all cash from the store and deposit it in your bank account. Unless you have a safe that is immoveable, take home your business checks and credit cards too, anything that’s attractive to criminals.
□ Remove any high ticket items from the sales floor. Neil and David’s inventory includes expensive art materials and jewelry making components. You may have designer goods, electronics or even sewing machines. It’s better to be safe when you do not plan to be at the store on a daily basis.
Working with Your Vendors
□ Cancel, postpone or divert shipments to your home. Cancel shipments that will be past their sell date once you reopen. Push ship dates back wherever you can to June 1st or later. Again, be proactive – your vendors are your partners and they will try to help. Note that if you refuse a shipment you could incur additional costs and you don’t need that right now.
□ Exchange cell phone numbers with your UPS and FedEx drivers. Now, when a shipment is coming in you can ask the driver to leave it at the door for you to pick up or meet them at the store.
□ Notify your store associates that you will be closed indefinitely. Give them their last paychecks on their final day of work, and check with your state to see if you are also required to pay unused vacation days. Consider paying associates who stay to help with online sales or curb service a small increase or bonus if you can afford to so. They will pay you back with their loyalty.
□ Help get your associates unemployment insurance. Have the information about where to file readily available for them. Mark Ryski, CEO of HeadCount Corporation, suggests that you reach out to “essential” retailers in your community, who likely need additional help, to see if they can hire your team on a temporary basis.
□ Talk with your store associates about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Set up a line of communication so that you can talk back and forth with your team quickly and efficiently. Whether you utilize email, text messaging, Zoom video meetings or conference calls, just be sure to communicate with your team at least once a week, more often if necessary.
□ Note who has keys to your store. Ask for them to be returned to you temporarily if you deem this to be necessary.
Watch Your Finances
□ Stop spending. Take a hard look at everything you spend money on and evaluate it to determine if it is really necessary right now. Cancel or suspend services you don’t need if the store is closed for at least 90 days.
□ Talk with your insurance agent. There may be additional things to be done while you are closed to stay within policy guidelines. If you have Business Interruption insurance ask how it applies to the Covid-19 shutdown.
□ Contact your creditors. Explain that your store is closed indefinitely and that cash may be tight until you are allowed to reopen again for business. Ask how you can work through this together, deferred payments may be possible but you have to be proactive and you have to ask.
□ Ask your landlord if it is possible to lower or suspend your rent payments until you are back in business. If you can’t get a reduction you may be able to postpone payment to a later date or spread them out over the remainder of the year. Your landlord may be in a tight situation too, but a compromise on rent is a better solution than potentially having to deal with empty space to fill later on.
□ If you have a mortgage, ask your lender about forbearance.
Forbearance is an option where you and your lender agree to temporarily suspend your monthly mortgage payments for a specific period of time. Request that payments for the next 90 days be added to the end of your loan. New government bills to help citizens with closed businesses and those out of work due to Covid-19 are being hammered out in Congress right now, but until we know for sure, call your lender and ASK.
□ Frequent communication is critical. During this time it is especially important to communicate where customers can find you online. Send email blasts offering product more frequently than usual; include information about upcoming Facebook Live or Instagram broadcasts, plus links to tutorials on your YouTube channel. The goal is to keep customers close in this time of isolation. Most importantly, tell them when they will hear from you again, as in, “You’ll hear from us on Wednesday with an update.”
□ Make one of those email blasts a Brag Sheet. List all the services and conveniences you offer (like personal shoppers), how to shop while the store is closed, where to find you on social media, frequently asked questions, brands that you carry – whatever makes sense for your store. You don’t want customers to ever forget about you and all that your store has to offer.
□ Create a Top 10 Gift Lists for items that can be shipped or are available for curbside pickup. Think Easter, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, new babies and birthdays. Share a list for various age groups and product categories that you sell. Add the lists to your website, social medias and email blasts.
□ Let customers know that although your store is closed you are still open for business. Share where they can see and buy your product. Don’t just post single items and prices, instead feature product groupings – the goal is to increase add-on sales. Get creative! Put together kits and gift packs. If do not currently sell online or via social media it’s easy to get started. Vend’s Shopify Integration can help.
□ Encourage gift card purchases. 61 percent of customers spend more than the amount of their gift card, 75 percent spend more than the value of their card, and 55 percent of gift card recipients require more than one shopping trip to spend the balance of their card. The more times they visit your store – in person or online – the more they are likely to buy something.
□ Sweeten the deal. Try a Buy $25 in gift cards and get a $5 gift card for free or Buy $50 in gift cards and get a $10 bonus card promotion. Who doesn’t like to get something for themselves, especially when it’s free?
Your goal right now is store survival. Make a plan for yourself and follow it. Just because your physical store is closed right now, it doesn’t mean you are on vacation. Visit your store often and use this time to do all the things you have always wanted to do, but never had time. We will get through this together, one day at a time.
About the authors
Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are consumer anthropologists, keynote speakers, authors, consultants who have helped thousands of businesses in the retail, restaurant, hospitalit, healthcare, collegiate, beauty, fashion, travel, funeral, and service industries since 1990.
KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC’s Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions Magazine’s list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers and have been named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders, KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers, Top 100 Retail Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Their Retail Adventures blog is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. Rich and Georganne serve as a BrainTrust panelist for RetailWire and are partners in the popular Independent Retailer Conference.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.