We won't try to deny it: COVID-19 is hitting retail hard. Small boutique, 50-location enterprise, or Big Box store, nearly everyone in the retail industry is feeling the effects of Coronavirus and current shelter in place mandates.
At this point, it should go without saying that all brick & mortar businesses must adhere to the CDC's retail guidelines pertaining to employees, store disinfection and sanitization, and customer communication. But if you have had to temporarily shut your doors, there is no shortage of things you can be doing to optimize your business operations and come out even better prepared post-ban. Here's a retailer's guide to Coronavirus, and how to keep your retail business on track amid COVID-19.
Perform a physical inventory
Physical Inventories are essential to the success of your retail business: if the inventory you have on hand does not match the inventory recorded in your POS, you run the risk of making business decisions based on inaccurate data, upsetting customers by overpromising out-of-stock products, failing to detect a theft issue, and running into major tax blunders.
Here are some best practices for conducting a store or warehouse inventory, plus a Power User Webinar on making the most out of the Springboard Retail Physical Count feature.
Address delayed orders
Have you already received notifications of delayed or even canceled open orders? Adjust the PO's ship date in your POS, and then begin strategizing how you will replace that inventory with what is needed to make your sales plan. Consider transfers if you have a location that is currently overstocked. Look for ready-to-ship merchandise from trusted or new vendors. Seek out locally-made products.
If you have not received any sort of communication, be proactive and reach out to all vendors for status updates. Keep in close contact with them so you will remain top of mind as things get back on track, and add verbiage to your vendor contracts regarding accepting/refusing goods should they be related to COVID-19 threats.
If the order is delayed to the point of it being too late for you to confidently move the inventory at full price (ie. your historical data proves that denim jackets will no longer be selling at a high margin into July), work with the vendor to cancel the order, or at least negotiate return terms.
Get ahead of receiving
Look at your open purchase orders and all items you will soon still be receiving without delay: Get ahead of those deliveries and make sure the item records are fully updated with images, descriptions (Springboard + BigCommerce users: The "long description" is what will sync to your web description), and any other custom fields that may not have been added to the original PO or item import.
Prepare for your next buy
Information is power: Having inventory performance and sales data at your fingertips is going to make your next buy more profitable than ever, so dive into your POS's reporting tools and start running some comparison reports in preparation. Look at metrics like margin performance (by vendor, category, season, style, whatever groups apply to your inventory), product returns, and sell-through. All of this data will help you not only determine what and how much to buy, but also negotiate better terms with vendors.
Our latest Management One webinar also addresses concerns regarding what inventory you currently have on hand, and how to reevaluate against your sales plan in light of current conditions.
Sharpen your skills
Even with the best of intentions, we all fail to take enough time for continued education. If you're holed up at home or in your back office, tune into one of our SellMore! Retail Webinars, and sharpen your skills on inventory management, POS reporting, customer marketing, and other retail topics.
Shoot fresh content
This is, no fail, one of the to-do list items that the majority of smaller store owners consistently find themselves pushing further and further down their list, so here’s your chance to take advantage of natural light and get ahead on content creation. Set aside some time when you would normally be on the sales for to shoot new photos for your social accounts and/or website.
If you have the budget to hire a professional, consider that many of your local photographers are likely getting slammed by cancelled events; they would certainly appreciate the business and may even be willing to negotiate their rates.
Remerchandise and redo windows
Get those windows and in-store displays ready for spring! Here's a great guide on designing your sales floor and how to use POS data for retail merchandising. This will be especially important if you do have delayed orders and your store is feeling light or stale.
- Start event planning for Summer & Fall: By the time things are on the up, consumers are going to be stir crazy and looking for any excuse to socialize.
- Refresh & remerchandise your website: Whether you sell online or not, make sure it includes descriptions of the brands you carry, locations & directions, hours, social media links, reviews, blog, and job postings.
- Clear out on-hold tickets
- Give your stores a deep clean
- Organize your back office
- Replace air conditioner vents
- Update your Pinterest boards
- Get ahead on staff scheduling
- Create a gift card and other cash wrap displays
Additional COVID-19 Retailer Resources
Coronavirus: A Clear and Present Danger to Retailers - Management One
Coronavirus for Retailers: What You Must Do - The Retail Doctor
How to Prepare Your Boutique for COVID-19 - The Boutique Hub
Coronavirus Resources for Retailers - National Retail Federation
Topics: Business of Retail