It was impossible for retailers to be completely prepared for a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic considering something to its magnitude has never happened before. No business had all the right answers for how to navigate the crisis. However, seeing how your peers are handling similar issues can help — or at least make you feel less alone. Recently, Women in Retail Leadership Circle sent a COVID-19 survey to its Inner Circle subscribers. Last week, we reported on the top challenges that our subscribers were facing as a result of the pandemic. This week, we examine the different ways they’re solving those challenges.

Communication

Over 25 percent of the survey respondents mentioned communication as a factor in how they were managing the crisis. Here’s what some respondents had to say about the role of communication in managing internal team crises, especially when whole teams are working remotely, and keeping in touch with clients during the time:

  • “Communication is key. We have a weekly update video from our CEO discussing the business, and then a team is ready to collect questions and topics for future discussions. Also, our CEO has discussed how he sees the business emerging from this time period, and it’s bright, and that gives lots of motivation to the company.”
  • “Communicating frequently with employees and store owners. [We host] live events each week with updates and the ability to ask questions to the officer team.”
  • “Keeping in constant communication and being fully transparent regarding the state of the business has been very helpful. What’s challenging is that the future is unknown — e.g., if we’re going to be held to our financial plans at the end of fiscal 2020.”
  • “Using the phone rather than email to connect with potential clients. A true voice-to-voice conversation to check in rather than filling email inboxes.”

Cutting Costs

In the survey, 54.5 percent of respondents ranked “managing the financial health of your business” as their primary challenge. With store closures and unemployment rates rising, consumers weren’t spending as much money on non-essential items, causing most retailers to re-evaluate finances. Here are some ways respondents are cutting company costs:

  • “We’re trying to keep as many people working as possible by doing salary cuts for anyone making over a certain threshold.”
  • “Reducing expenditures, offering nontypical services to clients, and focusing on thought leadership, business development topics, and cross-training of staff.”
  • “Each associate has taken a pay cut or has been furloughed, but we’re supporting their health and benefit needs. We try to keep everyone informed, healthy and upbeat during this time.”
  • “[We’re] rethinking the need for an office.”

Adjusting Marketing Strategies

Another challenge retailers are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is how to continue marketing and selling their products/services without seeming insensitive or tone deaf. Here are some ways respondents were shifting their marketing focus:

  • “[We] changed from a local marketing strategy to a national online strategy.”
  • “Pivoting marketing messages and updating offerings.”
  • “[We] shifted all focus to [our] online store, [and are] strongly prioritizing and emphasizing customer service and personal communication with our customers on social [media].
  • “The retail team is assisting the web team, taking over Facebook, and working on Grassroots marketing.”
  • “Our massage business is just totally shut down. We can’t provide our service virtually. We’re trying to keep as many members active as possible; it helps that they can use the benefits once we reopen. We offered three free upgrades to those who remain active.”

What other ways are you and your company problem solving during the COVID-19 crisis? Please let me know by dropping me a line at achiaradio@napco.com.