No matter whether or when it is officially declared a "pandemic," the uncertainty and angst that it is generating have troubling implications for retailers.
The tornado of media and social media commentary on the subject makes it all the more important to "Keep calm, and carry on."
This is no time to overreact, nor to be dismissive. Look for the facts.
Our focus is on those impacts that demand the most judgment from owners. That is, what are the implications for the people involved with your stores: your employees and their families, and your customers?
- Do you have an established sick leave policy, so your people when sick will actually stay home, without financial hardship?
- Do you have a backup plan for keeping the store running when people do call in sick?
- What happens if schools are closed, and your employees have no child care options?
- Are you able to adjust your store hours, in case your employees are unavailable? Some malls are reducing store hours, for example.
If a major employer has had work slowdowns (or closures), this will affect the buying power of your shoppers over the next few weeks and months.
Begin now to make adjustments to your planned budget for the year. If employees have been on sick leave, or your store has had reduced hours and/or days of being closed, that is revenue that is unlikely to be recouped. It's time to revisit your expense budget, and start to make adjustments.
While you're at it, be sure to make some adjustments to your buying plan! This is the time to consider the supply chain implications.
Meanwhile, are there orders that should be cancelled? Remember, when customers are able to return, they will not be looking for winter merchandise!
These are just some of the demanding judgment calls. The key, as always, is using the lead time. The sooner you begin, the more choices you will have.
Gather as many facts as you can, and then, yes, apply your best judgment!