The worldwide coronavirus pandemic and its spread in the United States has disrupted everyone’s lives tremendously. From how and where we work, to how we shop, how we eat, and how we communicate with each other. There aren’t very many parts of life that the outbreak hasn’t affected.
Small businesses throughout the country have already experienced a considerable hit to their bottom line, as foot traffic in most industries has plummeted almost overnight—giving business owners next to no time to prepare.
While some industries have seen an uptick in foot traffic, businesses in those industries are mostly owned by larger corporations and wouldn’t be considered mom-and-pop shops.
For example, foot traffic in warehouse chains increased by almost 40% between February 19 and March 13 in major cities across the country, according to a study done by Foursquare. Grocery stores, meanwhile, saw a massive spike in visitors between March 11 and March 13 as people began panic buying.
For much of the country’s small business owners, though, the crisis has done just the opposite. Foot traffic at casual dining restaurants dipped 11% nationally between February 19 and March 13, according to that Foursquare study, and it has likely dropped even further since then.
Plenty of other small businesses have been hit even harder as consumers decide to stay inside, practice social distancing, and keep themselves out of harm’s way.
Creativity is Key: How Businesses are Adapting
If you’re a small business owner who has experienced a significant drop in foot traffic due to the coronavirus outbreak, what are you to do?
To face this crisis, many small business owners are trying to find creative solutions that could help them maintain their sales while keeping customers safe and healthy. Here are some examples:
- DeCicco & Sons, a grocery store in New York, has decided to open their store 30 minutes earlier than usual. The catch: this extra time is only for senior customers to shop. This allows for those that are most vulnerable to coronavirus to buy safely without being among any large groups.
- Some places have implemented extreme cleaning and disinfecting protocols to make their clients feel safe, like Planet Hair, a salon in Wichita, Kansas. If your state’s government still allows businesses to stay open, you can help clients feel safe and coming into your business.
- Restaurants have decided to implement services that allow people to buy meals and receive them at their homes. Fat Rice, a restaurant in Chicago, is even selling pay-what-you-can meal kits. You can sell your inventory so the lack of sales doesn’t hurt your cash flow.
- Some stores allow people to order online or by phone and then letting them just go to the store to pick up what they bought, almost like a drive-through. Businesses in downtown DeLand, Florida, have implemented curbside pickups to allow customers to buy what they need and staying safe. You don’t necessarily need to have clients coming inside our store to sell.
- Many gyms and yoga studios, like The Elements, in Charlottesville, Virginia, have decided to offer video classes so that people can keep working out from their homes. Internet is your friend now that everyone is staying at home, take advantage of all its tools.
- Some gin distilleries in the U.K. have stopped making alcoholic beverages and are now producing hand sanitizer. This goes to show that you can repurpose your installations to offer services that people need.
- Starbucks and other cafés have put a temporary ban on people bringing re-fillable cups into their stores, opting instead to give everyone disposable cups to avoid any type of contagion. This helps people stay at ease and know the business cares for them.
7 Ways Small Businesses Can Adapt to Low Foot Traffic
You can implement some of these solutions to either maintain foot traffic or your sales. Here are seven ideas for how you can emerge stronger from this crisis.
1. Ensure the cleanliness of your store, and tell consumers about it
One of the biggest fears people have is that businesses can become tainted once an infected person enters them. People can ensure the cleanliness of their own homes, but they can’t guarantee the cleanliness of a business.
During this crisis, you must be taking the proper safety precautions to thoroughly clean and disinfect your business. Then, once you’ve figured out how to do that, communicate what you are doing to your customers. This will help put their mind at ease and hopefully bring them back to your store.
2. Offer hand-washing stations, gloves, and masks
Another way to instill confidence in your customers is to create hand-washing stations in your business and also offer disposable gloves and masks that everyone can wear when they enter your store.
To reiterate the point and instill more confidence, make sure that all your employees at least wear gloves while they work and wash their hands thoroughly and often. Doing so where customers can see is a good idea, too, so that they feel safer.
3. Offer “no-contact” delivery services
If your business offers delivery services of any kind, you can offer “no-contact” delivery services for your products. Small restaurants are used to knocking on doors and delivering food directly to customers. But during this coronavirus crisis, people are being asked to avoid as much face-to-face contact with others as possible.
As such, you can offer “no-contact” delivery services. Tell customers that you will call them when you are at their house. When they confirm that they can come to the door to pick it up, you’ll simply leave the food at the front door and be on your way. The customer can then open their door to retrieve the food once you’ve left.
4. Switch from re-usable to disposable products
If you own a restaurant, bar, or any other business that serves food or drink, one way you can ensure cleanliness and instill confidence in your customers is to switch to disposable products. While this isn’t as environmentally-friendly as possible, it’s a better way of making sure that what you’re giving your customers isn’t being served in tainted containers.
5. Offer free or reduced shipping for online purchases
While people are leaving their house much less than they did even a month ago, they still have purchasing needs. Instead of going to businesses to make those purchases in person, however, they’re staying home and making them online.
One way to cater to your customers’ new way of thinking is to offer free or reduced shipping for online purchases. This may convince consumers to purchase your small business rather than turning to a big-box store.
If you don’t have an online store set up already, now is a great time to do so. Not only could it help you capture additional revenue while foot traffic is low, but it could set you up well for once the coronavirus crisis is over.
6. Offer discounts on gift cards that can be used at a later date
While the crisis and the current recession is keeping more people away from businesses now, it won’t last forever. Once the virus is under control, people will likely be itching to get their lives back to normal as soon as possible. That means venturing out to bars and restaurants and mom-and-pop shops, as well as welcoming contractors back into their homes.
One way you could work on acquiring customers while capturing revenue now would be to offer a discount on gift cards.
Now could be a great time to offer a free $20 gift card to anyone who purchases $100 worth of gift cards, for example. This would give your customers a significant value, as they can buy something they’ll eventually use at a steep discount. At the same time, it’ll bring you cash now at a time when you most likely need it.
7. Shift the focus of your business temporarily if you can
The coronavirus crisis has caused a spike in demand for specific products. You have to look no further than empty grocery store aisles that were once lined with paper products, cleaning products, and certain meats for proof of this. Panic buying of certain items has caused a shortage of those items in-store, and significant unmet demand.
This could, in a way, provide an opportunity for your business to increase foot traffic while also doing the community a lot of good.
One example of this could be if you own a bakery. While you may specialize in cookies, cakes, pastries, and other sweets, now might be a good time to shift focus temporarily and start churning out bread. There isn’t a massive demand for desserts during the current crisis, but there certainly is for food staples such as bread.
Your business may not be able to make a shift in focus like this so quickly—or it may not be relevant to your industry—but you should at least explore all possible avenues for how you could meet the consumer demand where it is.
The global crisis that’s been caused by the coronavirus outbreak is severe, and it is affecting people in all facets of their life. Small business owners know this more than almost anyone else, as not only has their personal life been disrupted, but their professional one has, too.
Foot traffic is down considerably at small businesses throughout the U.S., particularly at bars/restaurants, mom-and-pop, and other retail shops. Construction companies/home remodelers, as well as wholesale products, are down as well.
Despite this fact, there are some tactics you can implement now that will not only help you weather the storm but also emerge stronger from the recession.
Some of these ideas may require extra capital that you don’t already have on hand. At a time when finances may be tight, Camino Financial is here to help you. We are working with all of our customers to ensure we can get through this crisis together. It’s just one way we live up to our motto of No Business Left Behind.