How U.S. Retailers Should Prepare For A Pandemic

Brahm Meka
August 27, 2022
9 min read
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Retailer during a pandemic

In the short-term, retailers selling items like hygiene products, face masks, cleaning supplies, and non-perishable foods are observing significant growth in sales due to the Coronavirus. Long-term, however, retailers are concerned that the Coronavirus will negatively affect their 2020 revenue.

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread across the globe, and retailers are wondering: how will this affect their online businesses?

While retailers in the food, health care, and cleaning supplies sectors have seen a spike in online sales, the long-term impact is very much still an unknown. While cities in Asia and regions of Europe are currently in lockdown, the United States has still been business as usual. However, with events like Adobe Summit & Magento Imagine and Shoptalk being postponed or canceled, many retailers are expecting a downturn in revenue for the year as the Coronavirus continues to spread, and areas in the United States start going into lockdown.

If the outbreak progresses, U.S. retailers must begin preparing for the disruption that will occur in the markets. With the spread of the Coronavirus, the government will quickly start closing businesses and encourage social distancing. With social distancing, people will be encouraged to stay home. Therefore, brick and mortar sales will severely decline—however, partially compensated by a spike in online sales—as they have in China. So, the question is: how can these businesses prepare for the pandemic that will be disrupting the markets?

Enduring the pandemic

Retailers have four core actions: buy, store, move and sell. Each of these will face challenges in the upcoming future as the pandemic continues.

Imports from hard-hit, overseas regions will be delayed. These delays in shipments, particularly from Chinese suppliers, are increasing and will soon extend to European suppliers. Manufacturers in the United States that are dependent on imported materials, will consequently have to delay production—thus, creating immense bottlenecks.

Products in high demand during this pandemic, will be placed on backorder as suppliers and manufacturers will struggle to keep up.

Companies need to start putting purchase limits on certain items so bulk buyers do not hoard products from consumers that need it. Businesses need to start looking at a plan B or alternative products in order to meet this climbing demand.

With fewer consumers coming into brick and motor stores, businesses that are primarily offline will need to shift their focus to creating a stronger online presence. Companies that have never looked into online sales—there is no better time to focus than now. Look into an inventory management system that can help your business smoothly transition online.

As more and more Americans become cautious of outside contact and get asked to stay or work from home, they will need an outlet to fulfill their consumer needs. eCommerce will be the solution for many, as it allows for little to no contact. Consumers all around the world are seeking convenience during this time; the more online options available to your customers, the more enticed they will be to buy from you. A similar trend has transpired in China and retailers in the U.S. should expect the same.

Health and safety

During this pandemic, the health of your employees and customers should be of utmost importance. As a retailer, you should play your part in ensuring that you are slowing the spread of the virus.

If you have a brick and motor store, make sure to place hand sanitizers throughout and that shopping carts and baskets are wiped down regularly with disinfectants. Staff should be informed to wash their hands more frequently using soap and water, avoid touching their face and use alcohol-based sanitizer when necessary. Placing signs around the store to notify your customers and employees will help to serve as a constant reminder.

In addition, encourage staff members to STAY HOME if they, or anyone in their home, are feeling sick. Any unwell staff members should self-quarantine for at least 14 days before returning to work. Head office members should limit their travel, and work from home should be encouraged—if possible. With cloud-based inventory software, non-operations personnel can easily work from home. Accountants or marketing members can also log into an inventory platform from their home.

Looking into the Future

The Coronavirus pandemic will have numerous economic repercussions as death and case count increases and it will undeniably make life harder for many businesses, as well as bring the market closer to a recession. During this time, however, companies should implement new strategies, plan appropriately and cut back on spending. They should also use this downtime and time of chaos to prepare for the future.

Offline retailers should immediately start looking into transitioning online; there is no better time to plan your online strategy than when the country goes into lockdown. Companies that face bottlenecks should use this time to reflect and make changes to operations, as sales will eventually pick up again once the pandemic dissipates. Learn more about how your business can thrive in a recession.

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Brahm Meka
Founder & CEO

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