For the last six weeks, I’ve been enjoying a front-row seat to witness real “Yankee Ingenuity” fostered by a creativity level I’ve not seen among independent retailers, maybe in my entire lifetime. Which, given my 67 years, is a significant span.
The last six weeks have been an investment in the future of independent specialty retail by both the government, which breathed economic life into our deflated lungs and spirits, and by retailers who invested their time to learn, listen and quickly move to adapt to a world they saw being reshaped hourly.
Store locations may have closed, but not your business and not your drive, determination, and resiliency to a crisis. You could not control the pandemic that came blasting into our lives like a category 5 hurricane, disrupting, and changing every part of our existence. But your will to persevere could not be stopped.
Digital selling sites went up like tents after a natural disaster, replacing stores closed by the pandemic. Retailers started to sell through Facetime, Zoom, and other screen-sharing devices, most often from their own homes. New e-commerce and social media sites went up in 48 hours and within the first few hours, they went live, starting to fulfill the appetites of a willing and hungry audience.
Gamification of retail kicked in and retailers and their customers started having fun. Lotteries became so much in demand that some of our clients were running them multiple times a day and discovering, by mid-April, they were going to make – or come close to – last year. From luxury retailers to fast fashion, it was game on.
Digital group social events sprang up everywhere, dressing and showing off new shoes and clothes. Family and friend gatherings fired up technologies to share experiences of Easter egg hunts and dinners, Passover seders, happy hours, social clubs, group meetings, and reunions of friends and schoolmates from another era. I am told attendance at online religious services has soared.
Perhaps the greatest outcome of this pandemic is the haste to which retailers dove in to reshape and remake their businesses. From virtual appointments to surging online sales to newly developed digital footprints. And then, hard-fought negotiations with vendors and landlords. New compensation rules for your people, based on performance.
The door has swung wide open by throwing out all the rules of the past and creating new rules. Rules to survive and then thrive, where every expense becomes variable as we are in the throes of uncertainty. Uncertainty in the economy, unpredictability in human behavior, and a disruption in the supply side. This disruption, of course, also manifests itself in the erratic delivery of product.
Rapid change has caused us to change our reality of always looking out in the next 12 months. Now, it’s imperative to always focus on the next 12 weeks. That’s the Brave New Retail World we’re entering, where our purpose is to survive and then win. A brave new world, seeded with new opportunities that are unfolding, for those keen to see it.
As I heard or read about on one of the many webinars or articles I’ve poured over the last six weeks, “We are in the second inning of a nine-inning game that may very well go into extra innings.” Those that come to the plate swinging – and remember, getting a hit 3 out of ten times is considered a great hitter- will be the beneficiaries of the spoils of lost competitors.
Americans have an uncanny ability to be innovative. How that innovation presents itself will be a part of our future success. The pace of change has accelerated, but you’ve learned that you can change fast. You’ve been energized by a world you will not let pass you by. I am humbled by your response, yet I am not surprised. This is a community that I’ve spent my entire life-embracing, and being embraced by. Together as a community, we will rebuild our business, our lives, and ignite the indomitable spirit that makes us great.
Onwards and upwards, Always!
Marc Weiss heads up Management One. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.