As the voice of college football, Keith Jackson, would say, “Whoa, Nellie!” That catchphrase seems to sum up the type of year 2020 has been.
As a person who travels frequently, I know firsthand how the pandemic has altered the way many of us do our jobs. Back in March, when the transition to working from home started, no one knew what to expect in the coming months. If someone would have told me when this started that I would be home for 160+ days straight, my first thought would have been, “My wife and I have never had this much time together; how is she going to put up with me?” In 17 years of marriage, we have never had this many days together in a row. Would we survive all this time in the same house for so long?
On the professional side, I took a part-time job at the end of March as a principal of the homeschool. It wasn’t a job that I was qualified for, but I heard that the applicants were limited. I met with the superintendent, Mrs. Fischer, and she hired me on the spot. My guess is she had no choice, as I believe I was the only option available. This wasn’t your normal-paying job, and I wasn’t qualified to be teaching anything, especially algebra. Somehow, though, we managed to get through the two months of homeschooling, and I am happy to announce that both my boys completed their work from home and have successfully moved on to the next grade.
I now have a new respect for teachers and truly appreciate all they do for our children. Oh, and if you’re wondering what my pay was? I got all the snacks that I could eat and extra valuable time with my boys. I would happily do it again but am glad they are back in a classroom setting. I recently resigned from my position as principal under no protest.
My twin boys were very excited for me being home, and I have enjoyed our extended time together. We have had the opportunity to hang out more and do “guy” stuff. Although, they did ask me recently when I’d be leaving again. I’m starting to think I may have overstayed my welcome. In all seriousness, I’m happy to report that the family is safe, going strong and it turns out we really do love spending time together.
I tell you all this because my situation is not unlike millions of others around the globe and possibly even your own. We’ve all had to make adjustments in how we work, live, teach and thrive during this pandemic. And the same can absolutely be said about the Independent retail channel.
COVID-19 has created some challenges in the retail industry but also a lot of opportunities. According to distilinfo.com, retail sales plunged a record 16.4% in the month of April — the worst drop in history. That same month, the mattress industry had one of its worst performances ever, with some reports saying it was down more than 60%. The retail world was basically shut down for six weeks. On top of that, unemployment rose at record levels, consumers weren’t shopping in stores and nobody could predict how long the lockdowns would last.
As they scrambled to figure out how to stay in business, Independent retailers quickly pivoted to new ways of doing business. Prior to COVID, the focus was already shifting to online and e-commerce, but now that transition has been fast tracked. With even more consumers shopping from home, it became increasingly imperative for retailers to button up their online presence. If you have not done so already, I would make sure that your website is updated to reflect your store. Is it easy to navigate? Are the prices shown? Can I purchase directly from the website? Is online chat a feature that you offer? Are you advertising special financing and available inventory? All of these things are important when communicating with the consumer and can lead to transactions on the website and in the store.
We are all in unchartered waters right now and although it hasn’t always been easy pivoting, I believe we will come out of this much stronger than we were before.
This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of Retail Observer.