More than 10 weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, independent business owners and members of Nationwide Marketing Group have shown tremendous resiliency and a willingness to adapt that can only be described as remarkable. And all you need to do is look at the results of the latest survey of members and the wider independent retail channel to get a sense of just how nimble the business owners are who make up this channel.
Between April 1 and the middle of May, nearly two-thirds (60%) of dealers surveyed reported making some adjustment to the brick and mortar operations. Broken down, 27% said they moved to reduced hours, 19% were asked to close under government order for a period of time and another 7% voluntarily closed their stores.
However, as their doors closed, dealers turned their attention towards making improvements to their websites. Of the retailers surveyed, 70% reported making some sort of enhancement to their digital presence — 30% added e-commerce functionality, 28% added online chat as a feature on their websites and 12% started producing live demo videos. And those enhancements, understandably, paid off for dealers. When looking at their online traffic patterns between April 1 and mid-May, 60% of survey respondents said traffic to their websites had increased. Just 7% of dealers reported a decrease in website traffic.
Success was noticeable beyond just traditional website visits though. Year-over-year comparable sales have also improved. In the latest survey, 49% of dealers reported growth in their sales comps, and other 9% reported that sales were flat. That’s a marked improvement over the previous survey conducted just one month earlier. In that April 2 report, just 36% of retailers said their comps were growing, and another 10% reported flat sales. Further, 43% reported a comp sales decrease in the latest survey compared to 63% who reported the same in the month prior.
At least part of the sales success, according to the survey, could be attributed to the recent federal stimulus payments made to Americans. Of those surveyed, 60% said they believed those payments — which totaled as much as $1,200 per individual — positively impacted sales in their stores.
And on the topic of federal stimulus payments, the survey provided a positive glimpse at how independent retailers were able to benefit from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. According to Nationwide’s latest survey, 78% of dealers said they were able to secure funding through PPP with another 20% receiving EIDL aid.
Additional help for retailers appears to be on the way in the form of physical shoppers. At the time of the survey, states across the country had begun relaxing some of the more stringent stay at home orders while also attempting to continue to encourage social distancing. The impact with the relaxed orders could already be seen in this latest survey. A combined 45% of dealers reported seeing an increase in in-store foot traffic, compared to 32% who said they experienced a decrease in foot traffic. Those are vast improvements compared to last month when just 6% reported an increase in foot traffic and 89% reported a decrease.
For more information on Nationwide’s quick turn member surveys and other Back to Business resources, visit the Nationwide Back to Business Hub.
Rob is the corporate communications manager for Nationwide Marketing Group.