Coronavirus and retail

Over the weekend, I was asked to talk to a small retailer who has seen trading collapse and offer some advice about how to manage.

In quite different circumstances, I have some bitter experience of that. It got me thinking, and here are some thoughts on trading and survival that might be helpful:

1) it is often said that ‘cash is king’ and that’s never more true than now – it won’t be the most profitable who survive, it will be the best financed.

2) for that reason, consider your sources of funding now. Banks, investors, the government Business Bank – all are potential sources of vital liquidity, but all take time – don’t wait until it is too late.

3) You are going to end up managing cash outflows in a very granular way, and it isn’t fun. Deciding which suppliers get paid is a serious test of your values and your resilience. Start thinking now about your priority list.

4) And by the way, if you say you are a people business, make sure your people get paid, first.

5) Finally, a warning. Read some articles on ‘wrongful trading’ and don’t ever take supplies, loans or other debts that you know you can’t pay for – bad things will happen if you do.

I’m sure there are other tips out there – share yours in the comments, to help the community, please.

On ‘Expert’

In a strategy workshop with a retailer last week, we started to describe our brand as ‘the experts in …’. And now I’m wondering about that word expert.

If you are a specialist retailer and regard yourself as providing expert advice, a carefully curated range and colleagues in store who can guide and support customers, ask yourself an important question: Is that actually true, in the real world, for actual customers?

In my video game retailing days a frequent frustration was that a lot of our store was essentially just plastic game boxes. It was often easier to find reviews and detailed information on a game by looking it up on Amazon, on your phone, whilst standing in store.

I was reminded of that by visiting Majestic for the first time in a while this week. I love the Majestic brand and business but in my local store a refit has seen them, incredibly, remove almost all of the ‘blurb’ cards giving details on different wines – reducing the experience of choosing one to being much the same as in a supermarket.

Which retailers deliver expertise really well (and not just through interaction with colleagues, but through POS and store design?). And which, on the other hand, only think they do?