Over the past weeks many independent shops have adapted the way they do business. We reached out to our community to see how they are managing. These 10 shops share how they are staying connected with their customers when their shops are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Following are some creative and inspiring ways shopkeepers are staying connected and helping supporting their communities.
Sharon Springs, New York
“Our brick and mortar store is closed and may not be able to open for some time. Instead of laying off employees we are paying them to provide extra help to our customers who might be socially isolated during this time of social distancing. Until the store re-opens, our staff is manning an added phone line that is only dedicated to providing a friendly voice for people who are feeling lonely and need to hear a kind voice (we still have separate lined devoted to regular Neighbor customer service). The line will be answered from 10-6 (our normal store hours) daily and when staff is on the line or after hours, people can leave a message and someone will always call them back with a word of kindness. As founders, we have personally re-recorded our corporate phone greetings so that Neighbors can hear voices they trust. Obviously, our small staff cannot talk to everyone who is isolated, but this is a great initiative for other small retail businesses to do during this time to reach out to the communities in which they operate.”
Brookline & Dedham, MA
“We’ve closed our physical locations and we are working purely online. In addition to that we are starting to carry more essential items that people need for these strange times. ie more soap, hand sanitizer, etc. I wish I had more advice but we are just getting scrappy about it. We set daily goals now. Instead of growing our business and what’s best for our future we are thinking about how to pay rent next month. I’ve been reading a lot about business throughout history and how they survived pandemics and wars and it was the ones that adapted and didn’t hold on to any preconceived notion about what they should be doing and more about what needs to be done. I’m hoping that 30 years from now when my son is running the business he will tell customers the story about how I kept the business going during Covid-19. And that’s something that I will be really proud of.”
Clove & Creek
“We’re relying on online sales to keep things afloat…and we’re also offering local delivery. I think Clove & Creek will weather the storm. Its just going to be a tough year – or more. The silver lining is that we have all of this time to be creative and think of new ways of doing things. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.”
“Its been very strange to go from ramping up to our busiest time of year to almost nothing going on. I’ve had to lay-off my team which is just awful in so many ways, but I’m currently working on booking 2021 events and we’ve been offering bouquets to be dropped off on porches at a great price, trying to keep it simple to bring in a little money to pay rent. Social media has been great for our “Porch Bouquets” to stay very connected to our customers, just a “hi, how are you doing?”. I think everyone, in general, is happy to communicate so we get a lot of feedback and repost their photos. They are helping us and we are helping them. Even in this small way it matters. I think we’ll come out of this much closer to our community and customers, and that I’m grateful for. We are buying from local farmers, and delivering for free. We’re trying to make it affordable to buy and help pay local small businesses like ours.”
New York, NY
” We had to shut down the Northern Grade shop on 32nd St, so it’s been very rough. In trying to be creative during this time, we set up in person/virtual appointments so people can come in and have a one-on-one in the shop on FaceTime. People can sign up via our Calendy Page . We are also partnering up with American Field and have launched a Digital Marketplace as opposed to the physical pop ups that we are known for.”
Mark “Mac” McMillan
“Thank God we already had an online store. It was just a small percentage of our overall revenue, but since the site was already built out and the systems for selling online were already in place – I just had to ramp it up. I’m using Instagram to connect with my customers. I have always tried to be totally honest and transparent about what is going on, which people respond to.”
Cape Town, South Africa
“Before lockdown we stopped production on all our homeware textiles at our weaving mill in Plettenberg Bay, and focused on making masks for our staff. After lockdown we managed to secure a permit as an essential service provider and have been manufacturing linen masks and tightly woven cotton fabric on our looms. The fabric is all donated to a local NPO initiative that is supporting independent seamstresses to manufacture masks which are donated to people in need. Our linen masks are now being sold online and for every purchase we donate another. One of the most heartening experiences in all this is to see the phenomenal response and support from our customers. We are using our social platforms and our newsletter to keep all our customers up to speed with what we are doing to help people during this time. I think it is important for businesses to try and remain relevant during lockdown.”
“Our online shop has never been a big part of the business, it really is a separate business and takes so much work and truthfully we just didn’t have the resources to do this as well as manage the physical shop. We feel very grateful however that we do have an online shop and immediately offered free shipping to all UK customers to try increase the traffic to the site and flat rate of £3.50 to ROI customers. This has definitely brought us an uplift in online sales but we know that a lot of the orders are probably goodwill from family and friends and lovely customers… its hard to tell. We send out a weekly ezine to customers and this week it was a playlist to help folk working at home (with no mention of sales or products or online shop etc). We got a really lovely response from that and keep us in touch with our community of customers. Lots of customers emailed us back to say they were listening to it and asking us to keep in touch.”
I am looking at ways to offer digital/virtual content. I’ve been connecting a lot more through Instagram these days, there has been such a supportive and positive atmosphere in that community, its heartwarming. I have listened in on a video chat hosted by this guy Bill Bishop, his most recent book (which I have not read so can’t vouch for it ) is called The New Factory Thinker: Re-Wiring Our Minds For Success In A Disrupted Marketplace, which seems quite apt considering the current economic climate. I think this whole thing is forcing us to think about the longevity & sustainability of our business at the moment.
“We have uploaded a larger selection of our physical store to a page on our website that is currently only our own branded products. We are doing our best to stay connected with our customers through email and social media. By posting updates, scheduled content and personal messages. We are continuing with the rest of the months scheduled IG postings to give people a break from the influx of stressful news and covid updates! We are hoping to bring a smile and a breath of relief with some normalcy to our feed. We are also seeking our other online partners to sell our products through and to help support in this time. The biggest thing we are doing right now is our Give Back Initiative. For the foreseeable future, Village Common will donate up tp 25% of our online sales to FEEDING AMERICA COVID-19 Relief efforts. So far we have raised over a $1,000 to donate to this cause.
Ben + Blake