Times have been tough for businesses for the past year, but lockdown won’t go on forever! The nationwide roll-out of the vaccine is giving hope that we could get the virus under control, so people will need to think about rebuilding their business.
Now, it’s time to look ahead at how you can prepare for reopening, following the financial havoc that Covid-19 has wreaked across the UK. Retailers classed as non-essential have struggled in particular, as they have been forced to close through each of the national lockdowns.
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Many SME owners are struggling in its wake, with research from insurance company Simply Business showing 67% of businesses have had to temporarily close down. In 2020, an estimated 230,000 SMEs permanently stopped trading, out of the 5.8 million such businesses operating in Britain.
However, the report added the SME sector showed a resilience that gave reason to be optimistic about the future. Having a strategy in place to rebuild your business after lockdown will help you to hit the ground running – so read on for some tips on where to begin.
What will shoppers be looking for?
Before you develop a rebuilding plan, work out how it has affected your business financially. Update your financial statements so you have an up-to-date picture of how you’re faring. Compare the figures to last year’s performance to see how much your business has been affected.
Once you know where you stand financially, be prepared for when the doors reopen. Bear in mind the market will be extremely competitive, as all the businesses that have been closed for weeks or months will be striving to win back shoppers.
Ensure your shop has enough employees, as some may have been furloughed, or sadly made redundant. Determine how many you will need to ensure the business can function efficiently, without going over-budget.
How can you make up for lost time?
All you can do is make sure you’re ready to take on a lot of competition from other retailers. Everyone is in the same boat and we will all be vying for trade – so try introducing special promotions to get your customers back buying again.
If you cut your advertising and marketing budget during lockdown; if finances permit, you should seriously consider budgeting a higher amount into your rebuilding plan. While your business model may have worked fine pre-lockdown, you may need to fine-tune it when we’re out the other side.
Consider how to adapt to the “new normal” when going over your business model. Revisit your goals to determine whether they’re still realistic under the new circumstances.
Look into some more inventive ideas to tempt people back into your shop. Consider a discount day, as promotions should always play a big part in a retailer’s marketing activities. Set aside one day when everything has say 10% off. This is a particularly useful offer if the market has gone flat.
In terms of particular demographics, this can be really beneficial if you trade in a student area, or if your clientele are younger buyers, for example, as these groups tend to have less disposable income. Following the pandemic, most people in general will have less to spend, so a 10% discount would be a very attractive lure.
Consumer research shows the “percentage off” deal is one of the most popular and effective promotions. By offering a basic 10% off, it will help get slow sales moving again, without breaking the bank. Even a 5% discount will attract more shoppers if your net profit numbers don’t stretch to anything higher.
Think about offering discount vouchers, so the user can get money-off a particular product, line of products, or a service. You could email a printable voucher to your customer base, or a voucher they can use by showing it at the checkout on their mobile phone. Alternatively, publish a voucher on your social media page that is valid with certain products.
A voucher could also be supplied to claim a free gift, so that if a customer makes a purchase, they receive a printed-off voucher at the checkout to claim a freebie. Consider a multi-buy promotion, such as “buy one, get one free”, or “buy one, get 50% off” a second item.
Think creatively, as promotions and discounts are among your best options when it comes to attracting cash-strapped customers back through your doors.
Making your shop appealing
Never underestimate the power of a good window display. There’s no point having all the latest products in your shop if you’re not promoting them in a way that attracts consumers through the doors. Window displays turn a passer-by into a potential customer.
Try to present the perfect display using a mix of products, colours, themes and promotions to create something eye-catching that captures the essence of your business. Provide a small snapshot of your business – make it count!
According to Entrepreneur online magazine, you should change your window display at least once a month. Leave it in place long enough for people to see and react to it, but don’t leave it the same for so long that passers-by get so used to it that it ceases to provoke a response of any kind.
If your shop has been closed for months, it may be looking a little shabby. You may be eligible for funding to help get things in order – during the pandemic, various government schemes have been available to help businesses out financially.
Most recently, the government announced its £831 million England high street recovery fund. Other support schemes have included the Coronavirus Business interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.
If your budget will stretch to it, consider revamping your shopfront to give the right first impression to potential customers.
Develop a timeline for rebuilding, as you may not be able to do everything at once, so prioritise your most important actions. Track your progress, especially if you have secured funding to help get your business back on track. You should check regularly to see what’s working and what’s not.
While COVID may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime event, an emergency can occur at any time, so use what you’ve learned during the pandemic to be prepared for any future crisis.