How to Manage Your Retail Business During COVID-19

Though we often think of brick-and-mortar stores when we think of retail, the truth is that it’s possible to reach customers wherever they are. Whether you sell clothes or candles, bicycles or barbecue sauce, you can adapt to the current situation.

We’ve compiled tips as well as industry resources to help you manage your business right now.

Communicate with your customers

Keeping your customers informed is critical to the health of your business now and in the future. Here are a few ways to do that:

Update your hours

Set your new operating hours for each of your locations to let customers know when you have reduced hours or are closed. You can update your location hours through Square.

Post updates on your website

If you’re changing the way your retail business operates, make sure you post that information on your website, your social profiles, and your review site profiles.

Send emails and post on social media

Communication is key when you run a retail business. Keep your customers up to date to let them know how they can support your business, what your new hours are, or if you’re closing for a period of time. Communicate that information on your social channels, through email, or wherever else your customers engage with you.

Adapt your offering

You need to continue to create revenue, despite all of the changes happening. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Sell digital gift cards

Online gift cards can help increase cash flow while your business is closed. You can quickly set up an online ordering page for gift cards and then promote them to your loyal customers — who want to show their support.

Allow customers to shop by appointment

A big part of how to run a retail business right now is ensuring that you don’t have too many people in your store at once. A solution to this is to start doing virtual consultations — have customers book appointments for pickup or to shop using appointment scheduling software.

Evaluate your products

New restrictions are changing the way that people live and what they buy. Dig into the latest trends or survey your loyal customers to determine what their needs are right now. If some of your products meet those needs, make sure to promote those products more. If your products don’t meet those needs, evaluate if it makes sense to develop a product that does.

Try contactless selling

Most parts of the country have strongly encouraged social distancing. Here are a few ways you can comply while you continue to sell:

Sell your products online

Connect with your customers in a new way with a website that showcases your products online. You can add all your inventory or choose to highlight products that are particularly relevant right now — you might even consider free shipping to incentivise purchases. Be sure to promote your new online retail business via email and social media to your loyal customers. Learn how to start selling online.

Accept pickup or delivery orders

There are ways to deliver your products other than shipping by mail. You might consider offering customers an in-store pickup, curbside pickup, or local delivery option when ordering online, on the phone, or through email.

Sell on social media

Not only should you be communicating with your regular customers on social media, but you should be selling to them (and to new customers) on the platform. You can link your online store to your Instagram so your followers can shop with you more easily.

Limit in-person contact

If you are selling in person at your retail business, you’ll want to make sure that you’re limiting contact as much as possible. Consider using a contactless credit and debit card terminal and skipping the receipt screen during checkout. Or try a remote payment option like invoices.

Take payments from your computer

If you prefer, you can take an order over the phone via a virtual terminal or from an email, and key in card payment details.

Other retail resources

Retail Council of Canada: RCC is providing COVID-19 related resources including guidelines on reopening and relief measures by region.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB): A non-profit organization that’s providing COVID-19 specific resources to help retailers navigate the crisis.

Government of Canada: Business and industry news and discussion, covering everything from reopening and managing employees to financial support and access to credit.