Home Insights & Advice Covid-19: Not all doom and gloom for online retailers

Covid-19: Not all doom and gloom for online retailers

2nd Jul 20 3:57 pm

Business is hit, but it will hit back.

I know that the COVID-19 virus must have affected you in some way, even if not directly. Whoever you are out there, you recognize that retail businesses are slowing down, and you may even be in the difficult process of downsizing and furloughing your employees.

We were in the same position here, at Oliver’s Kitchen. In the initial 5 weeks of the lockdown in late March to April, we couldn’t even send stock to Amazon’s warehouses for fulfillment! It was a wretched position to be in, as I’m sure you know! The supply chain was bulwarked with lockdown barriers, sales were scarce, and money just wasn’t coming in.

Thankfully, the government helped bail small and medium businesses (SMEs) like ours, with prompt implementation of a series of loan schemes. They also eased certain supply chain barriers to help SMEs and other retailers, bolstering the community. With it, we were able to soften the blow of the lockdown. It was difficult, but we managed to use the money to boost our digital marketing model.

As the director of Oliver’s Kitchen (I’m Oliver!), I’m relieved to announce that the situation has now changed. From March to June, we had a 400% increase in online sales! What the lockdown took away from us in terms of sales from our brick-and-mortar stores, we made up online.

Our sales continue to increase as lockdowns have been eased. With more people out and about on the high street, which was also recently reopened, we’re lucky enough to service them, and make your way back up.

We hope this encourages you, especially if your business is stuck in a difficult spot at this time. If you get the financial aid we did, and start heating up your digital marketing plan, business will pick up.

The lockdown easements will help, and sales and digital engagements will keep on increasing as we move deeper into 2020. Stay the course. This uphill battle will eventually turn into a breezy, downhill run!

With shops open now, expect sales to rise quickly

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced that most brick-and-mortar retailers, including non-essential ones like Oliver’s Kitchen, would be allowed to open doors to the public from 15th June. Within two weeks since that date, our sales have continued to increase, from the initial lockdown phase. We’re certain our favourable outcome should be no different from tonnes of businesses out there!

As communities get used to normal life, shrugging off months of stiff isolation, it is only natural that we can expect a cautious, but relentless wave of shoppers in the aisles, equipped with the face-masks and gloves required to combat the dreaded virus (which is still in the area, don’t forget!).

As a retailer, all you need to focus on is the strict enforcement of social distancing, of 2 metres between every shopper, and stringent measures in terms of physical contact. Let customers know they shouldn’t physically handle products if they can afford not to. It is better for them to make a choice of purchase through sight only.

A world with COVID-19 is not one for idle browsing! With close to 44,000 deaths in the U.K. due to the coronavirus, it is not yet time to relax. If we are to keep shutters open for the next few months, British retailers are expected to be safe havens, at least as far as possible.

To support the change, try to expose as much of the goods and products to the customers so that contact is minimized when they are sizing it up. Maintain order within the queues. Keep disinfectant around for retail shop surfaces and shelves.

Once these measures are taken, brace yourself for a new normal. It will take a considerable period of time to stabilize, but the influx of customers will rise slowly, as the British community gets over their fears. This is the time we get up, dust ourselves, and forge ahead.

I always enjoyed Alfred Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, whose excerpt is quite apt to the circumstances:

  • Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
  • We are not now that strength which in old days
  • Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
  • One equal temper of heroic hearts,
  • Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
  • To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

Oliver’s Kitchen is ready to serve

We started out Oliver’s Kitchen with family-themed goals.  And we strongly want to continue in that vein, encouraging the preparation of fresh, cooked food in our usefully designed kitchenware. Cooking can be such a warm, communal practice. It doesn’t just have to be restricted to Christmases and other festive seasons.

The COVID-19 coronavirus, for all its deadly scourge, did ensure that we stayed at home. In doing so, it indirectly caused millions of homebodies⁠—including yours truly—to try their hand out in the kitchen! Inadvertently, many of us are now far more conditioned to the healthy act of cooking than we ever were in the last decade or so.

The world is in the middle of a new movement of home chefs. To reduce risk, we’ve forgone food home deliveries and take-away. We’ve given up on fast food. We’ve gone back to our roots for a short while, using the oft-ignored kitchen in our work-from-home modes. And Oliver’s Kitchen is happy to support this movement for as long as our customers see fit!

To all the other businesses out there, find this new normal. There will be new social phenomena emerging from the changes that the virus has affected upon us. Tapping into this, and understanding how your products can adapt to them, is what will help sales and outreach in the near future.

I’m also director of the operating brand ‘Ecigwizard’ which has over 60 retail locations across the U.K. Ecigwizard, too, survived because of a similar uplift in online sales after we had adapted to the new normal. So please, keep your eyes and ears open, and look for the subtle and stark signs of change in this virus-affected landscape. They will guide your way. I wish you the very best, in your endeavours. Cheers, Oliver.

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