10 Retailers Share How They’re Handling the COVID-19 Lockdown — and How They’re Preparing for the Future

The coronavirus has dramatically shifted the strategies and operations of virtually all retailers around the world. This is particularly true for brick and mortar retailers who have had to close their stores because they were deemed non-essential.

The impact, as you might expect, is a drastic drop in foot traffic. In fact, data from the investment firm Cowen and Company estimated that footfall in US retail stores dropped a staggering 97.6% for the week of March 27, compared to the same time in 2019.

So, how are retailers coping?

To answer that, we polled the retail community asked them two questions:

1. What are you doing in your business right now to weather the coronavirus storm?

2. What are you doing in your business to prepare for “retail spring” (i.e., When business picks up again)?

We’re sharing some of their answers below. You’ll likely relate with a lot of these retailers; and hopefully, some of their answers will inspire ideas that you can use in your business.

Check them out. 

1. Reducing costs, evaluating product lines, and streamlining processes

Jenny Davison of Pixie Party Supplies says that they’re doing a combination of “non-customer facing” tasks, including cost reduction, administrative work, and inventory management.

“We have initially been focused on reducing our costs as much as possible as we are unable to operate at all under the level 4 restrictions. We’re also taking this time to do all the admin and non-customer facing things that we can so that we utilize the time — things such as end of year accounts, writing blog posts so we can share on social media and stay visible during the lockdown and have content for when we re-open.”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

“We’re in the events industry so it’s going to take a while for us to get back to ‘business as usual’,” remarks Jenny.

She adds that they are looking at streamlining their procedures to run more efficiently. 

“We’re also reviewing our product lines as we think people will be hosting smaller events for a while and are more likely to be looking to DIY some elements as incomes are possibly going to be lower.

For example, we’re looking to bring in more baking products for people baking their own cakes, cupcakes & cookies — especially as we’ve all been busy perfecting our baking skills during lockdown!”

2. Taking a break to ideate and innovate

Amy Simpson of Kode Boutique, a fashion and apparel store in New Zealand, says that they’re using coronavirus downtime to cook up new ideas.

According to Amy, they’re “taking a well-earned break to start with and reset the clock. We’re coming up with new strategies for post lockdown to keep things fresh and innovative.”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

As for what they’re doing for the future, Amy says that they’re looking into new incentives for their customer. 

“We just had started using Marsello prior to lockdown. So its been a good time to interact with customers via our Facebook group and offering signup bonuses or “refer a friend” bonuses while everyone is on the internet and not so distracted from life.”

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3. Supporting customers even while the business closed + doing inventory counts

Jamie Laatz, from Beacon Tattoo Supply in Las Vegas, says that their store is currently closed, but they continue to communicate with their customers. 

“We are keeping in contact with customers by taking calls and direct messages.  We are in the tattoo industry, so while they cannot [get a] tattoo, we are sharing artwork to help support them during this hard time,” says Jamie. 

“We are also sharing updates with them and giving them outlets to find help. We feel it’s important to show leadership when so many people feel lost.  We will make it through together.”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

According to Jamie, they’re taking steps to stay on top of inventory and are also in the process of updating their website to take online orders. 

“We are going through stock and counting inventory, to make sure we have what we need soon as the shop opens back up.” 

“We are also taking the time to do a huge update on our website to handle upcoming orders. Having an up to date website might help us deal with the demand and reduce questions.”

Vend Tip

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Just scan an item’s barcode using your phone’s camera and Scanner will automatically record the SKU for you.

Just scan an item’s barcode using your phone’s camera and Scanner will automatically record the SKU for you.

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4. Keeping in touch with shoppers and ironing out their pricing strategy

Kayaga  Barbra, of Expect Maternity Store, says they’re staying in contact with shoppers and assuring them that their business will continue when the pandemic is over. 

“[We’re] keeping in touch with our customers and following up with any requests if any and assuring them the business will continue after the storm,” says Kayaga. 

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

To prepare for the resurgence of retail, Kayaga says that they’ve started thinking about how their marketing and pricing strategies.

“[We’re researching] ways to market and how to offer prices that will be both attractive  to the customers but also profitable for the business.”

5. Running social media initiatives, staff preparations, and online upkeep

Like other retailers, Walt Friedel from the jewelry store Dyrberg/Kern says that they’re active on social media and they’re ensuring that their website is in good shape. 

In addition, they’re also preparing their team for when stores open up again. 

“[We’re doing] lots of social media, competitions, prepping staff for store openings, website maintenance,” he shares. 

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

To ensure that they kick off strong when the lockdown is over, Walt says that they’re digging into their financials and inventory while thinking of ways to advertise their business going forward. 

“We’re working hard on cash flow forecasting and analysis, sorting stock for sale, prepping media/ advertising.”

Vend Tip

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Vend’s powerful reporting capabilities help you do just that. Our customizable reports can shed light on trends and information that you can use to make smarter business decisions.

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6. Limiting contact in-store and implementing “spring cleaning” tasks

Stuart Agar of VapeOn in Ireland, says they are implementing added health and safety measures in-store, while ramping their presence online. 

“We are using all the WHO and local government guidelines to reduce contact in-store and increased our online sales to reflect the fact people are meant to be apart and self-isolating during the lockdown”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

As for what they’re doing to prep for the end of lockdown, Stuart says that they’ve started to tackle overdue maintenance tasks and are ironing out their inventory management and marketing strategies.

“We are creating marketing and stock management plans to enable us to cope with the surge.”

“We are also carrying out ‘spring cleaning’ tasks like painting, upgrading and maintaining equipment, admin and other tasks that were low priority before COVID-19.”

7. Running online promotions, focusing on select clients, and reviewing existing processes

“[We’re] focusing on great online promotions and focusing on supporting clients that normally shop in-store that are needing to shop online,” remarks retailer Cassie Fowler. 

Additionally, we’re connecting personally with our top clients to engage them and give them exclusive offers and experiences.

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

As for how they’re gearing up for the re-opening of retail stores, Cassie says they’re evaluating their existing procedures, particularly around staffing.  

“[We’re] reviewing processes that may have to change or adjust to accommodate smaller teams. Also, we are closely reviewing labour budgets and planning to keep costs low.”

8. Going online and researching ways to pivot

Aileen Leadbetter from the gift store Cobblestone Gallery currently isn’t doing business but is striving to open an ecommerce site. 

“We are closed down right now, but I’m trying to work on getting at least part of my store online for online shopping,” she shares. 

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

“Praying. A large portion of my store’s product caters to people traveling or attending gift-giving events (such as weddings).”

“I’m trying my best to stay informed of both industries, but I’m also researching new directions that my store can take, either in terms of product or delivery, because everything is changing.”

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9. Publishing relevant content, exploring new products, and renovating the store

“We are publishing more social media posts and making sure all of our info is up to date,” says Bev Turner of Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery in Australia. 

“We are talking about cleaning and sanitizing on our social media and blogs and promoting our products at the same time. We are giving our customers handy DIY recipes and really trying to push our online store.”

In addition, Bev says that they’ve expanded their online catalog.

“We are also adding other products that we had instore only onto our online store to give our customers more variety.”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

“We are doing some renovations in our shop to give it a better look, and bringing out some new products to sell instore and online, you can’t ever stop if you want to succeed.

“There is so much that can be done to improve while we have no visitors in our store.”

10. Reducing overhead costs, working on the website, and planning a re-opening sale

Bryan Hamilton over at Equip Sports in the UK, says that he’s staying home while his business is closed — but he’s doing a number of things to keep the business afloat. 

“Since closing, I’ve contacted suppliers to reduce any overheads where feasibly possible — e.g., credit card merchant account, telephone, switched appliances off at the plug, etc. I’ve furloughed my staff, reduced my drawings, basically taken any measures possible to reduce my business expenditure at this time.”

What they’re doing to prepare for retail spring

“I’ve been busy maintaining and informing key customer contacts, building new contacts as a result of the current situation, so hopefully I can hit the ground running when I’m officially allowed to get back the thing I love doing — running my business and serving customers.” 

“In the background I’m working on my website, planning a reopening sale to help move on stock which should have been selling this past month.”

Final words

Each retailer has their own way of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately, you’ll need to do what you think is best for your business. The key, though is to take action. As Bev Turner of Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery so aptly put it, “you can’t ever stop if you want to succeed.”

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+.