The threat to our local, national and global economy is real and earlier today, Ireland followed in Italy’s footsteps to close all schools, universities and childcare facilities.

Although it didn’t go as far as Italy and close shops, the implications on business and retail are far-reaching. As retailers, we must plan NOW for the UK Government following the same kind of action.

As retailers ourselves, we are feeling the pain already. People are going out less, so not visiting towns/shops and as we sell items which people buy for their holidays, we are expecting this to have a massive impact on summer sales. As scary a prospect as this is, now is the time to plan not panic.  We recommend the following proactive steps you can make to make your business work harder in the inevitable lean period which is to follow:

  1. Get your products online. A website is costly and takes time – listing on Amazon and/or eBay is immediate. You might have thought about it in the past but pushed it to one side but now is the time to get it going. If you feel it is too complex, we can help you do this, or go on YouTube but if one channel is closing, you need to open another one.
  2. What if staff are unable to work due to childcare? Working from home must be an option and this will need planning. Assuming your staff don’t have company laptops, you will need to ensure that they are happy to use their own technology and you will need to consider the security of your logins, if you are sharing access to systems/accounts.  Use this downtime to plan for either listing products online, producing content for social media or writing blogs. If you don’t have a social media presence, now is the time to get that setup. We all have a wish list of things that need doing “if only we had the time” – well this is the time.
  3. Talk to your customers – communicate with your customers as to what is happening, as to whether you are open or shut.If you are shut, consider offering a mail order option for them.  Will you have a manned phone line or email? Do you have a courier or Royal Mail account to post out products to customers? Make sure you are vocal on social media.  People will want to support local businesses, but we need to tell them how to access our stock if our doors are shut.
  4. From a financial perspective, the budget this week has stipulated “Companies with a rateable value of less than £51k will have their business rates suspended this year”.   Also announced were cash grants of £3k to very small businesses with rateable values below £15k, with SSP covered by the government for employees affected by the coronavirus. Keep in mind this is reclaimable and will have an immediate effect on your cash flow. The self-employed can also defer tax payments.
  5. It is important to prepare for the inevitable shock to our businesses, but it is also important to plan what comes after. People will have less to spend as we all feel the squeeze, so your purchasing of stock should reflect that. You may also want to consider an un-seasonal sale when you re-open to encourage shoppers back to you.

As retailers let’s not panic, let’s plan!