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Retail Survival Post COVID-19

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

Today begins a three-part series on the challenges of retailers in the post COVID-19 economy. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy went into freefall with thousands of businesses closing and millions of people losing their jobs. Lost jobs means the lack of available money to purchase as much from many retailers. This guide is a "global" list targeting any retailer. Some items may be useful to one retailer and not to another. What we are endeavoring to provide is to point out some of the most important things for a retailer to be aware. Even for those who still have jobs, the stay-at-home orders implemented to slow the spread of the virus have also removed most of the traffic from customers off the streets for an extended period of time. Until an effective vaccine or treatment is found, even during the economy's gradual reopening, spending is going to be restrained. The longer it takes to begin to recover, the longer it will take for customers to return in significant numbers. There is also the possibility of a second wave keeping some more cautious in the event the economy has to shut down again. Cautious may be one of the best ways to describe the economy going forward for the next several years. Uncertainty is an overwhelming problem. On the individual consumer level, many will continue to ask the question, "Will I be safe?". Many customers will not feel safe returning right away. Another thing holding back consumer spending in the near future is that the American savings rate has jumped dramatically. Many people who previously had no monetary cushion going into this pandemic are thinking they better have one - hence, not as much spending at this time. Based on these facts, as a retailer, what should you be doing? QUESTIONS TO RESEARCH, ASK YOURSELF, AND ANSWER:

  • Will there be a "new norm" for my business and, if so, what will it be? One thing is probably certain and that is that it won't be what it was before the pandemic. Do research. Call everyone that you can think of such as suppliers and trade organizations. What are they seeing? Call people in the same business in other cities. Small business owners are often willing to help each other when you're not competing with them. Ask them what the are seeing. What problems are they having and how are they dealing with them? You may learn something valuable and you could possibly help them as well. There is also the added benefit that you could build up a stable of contacts that could be a valuable source of information and help in the future.

  • How have your customers changed? How do you change to fit their needs?

  • What is your vision for your business when you come out of the pandemic? With your changed customers, how do you see yourself operating on the other side?

  • How strong is your online business? Do you have one now? Do you have a strategy for your online presence?

Excerpted from the "Survival Guide for the Retailer in a Post COVID-19 Economy" by myself and Steve Spiro. If you would like a full copy of this guide, send be a message with your email address. There is no cost.


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug is a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at

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