It was the second Covid lockdown in Victoria that was a defining moment for many small business retailers. Whereas first lockdown was a national experience, the second lockdown was unique to Victoria back then.
While there were many media stories about businesses doing it tough, the reality is that many of us had a good Covid, through all four lockdowns in Victoria. Here’s what worked for us and many of the local small business retailers I have spoken with:
- Be safe. Have the perspex screens at the counter. Place your credit card terminal on the customer side.
- Be frugal. Spend what you must but hang on to as much cash as you can. You don’t know how long this will go on for.
- Make shopping easier, safer. Bring what people will want the most to the front of the shop, to reduce browsing. In a newsagency where papers have been put to the back of the shop, for example, bring them to the front of the shop.
- If you’re not online, get online.
- Be practical. Now is not the time for pretty displays.
- Preference card payment. The less cash you have to handle, the safer the business.
- Be flexible. Be available for shoppers where they want to shop: online, on the phone, via social media. Offer delivery or curbsibe pickup.
- Offer what they want. What people will purchase through a lockdown will be different to other times.
- Bundle. People who want to send gifts will appreciate you offering bundles ready to be delivered or posted.
- Co-operate locally. If you are open and a nearby shop is closed, maybe you could sell some of their stock for them.
- Clean, clean and clean. Showing this being done builds confidence.
- Be grateful. You will see many good deeds and hear about many too. Share them on social media.
- Look after your team. Have a good supply of masks and anti-bacterial gel. Given them breaks to refresh and wash their hands.
- Think about beyond Covid. The experience will help you see your business differently. Lean into that for opportunities on the other side.
Regional, rural and high street newsagents are likely to have a better lockdown than those in shopping centres. many Victorian shopping centres are yet to recover from lockdown 2 and beyond. I mention this as one consequence of extended lockdown for shopping centre businesses is to find opportunities outside the centre.
I have three physical shops in Victoria as well as an office and several online only businesses. What I have suggested in this post we have done in my businesses, and we continue to do them today. For example, as part of the be frugal advice, we made some decisions that we expected to be temporary, decisions we still follow today, decisions that continue to save money.
While things seem grim in NSW right now, at the local small business level you have an opportunity to make your own success, your own good situation out of a bad situation.
If your shop is open and not busy because people are staying at home, use the opportunity to make changes. Be bold, but frugal. Use the time, too, to plan for what’s on the other side – promotions, marketing, re-casting.
Footnote: through my work with newsagents and with the Tower POS software community more broadly, only a very few businesses did not make it through. I think this is because small business retailers are resilient and flexible, doing what is necessary. Good luck everyone!