Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes

 

Err on the side of over communication was the unanimous advice from retail leaders and industry experts at Retail Association of India’s very well attended webinar on The Impact of Covid-19 on Indian Retail held on Monday. Your employees and your customers need reassurance in these uncertain and troubling times.

 
Here are some learnings and takeaways from the webinar:
1. Communicate with Your Employees
There is a lot of nervousness about whether people are going to lose jobs. Will there be pay cuts? Err on the side of over communication, advises Anuj Puri, Chairman of Anarock Consultants, a leading retail and real estate advisory firm.

Reassure your employees. Enquire about their health and their families’ well being. You can:

  • Conduct town halls and video messages from the CEO.
  • Run health surveys.
  • Send out regular emails about the measures being taken to tackle the crisis./li>
  • Use this as an opportunity to train your front-end staff.

 
2. Communicate with Your Customers

Just because your stores are shut doesn’t mean you forget your customers. Make phone calls, send out SMSs, emails, and keep those social media channels active. Update customers about your company. Recently, a company told their customers that they paid their employees in full for March on March 26th. Transparency and openness can help you stand out in the crowd. Send customers to your social channels, your shopping app or mobile optimized website.

 
3. Be Prepared for a Recovery
First you prepared to work remotely, then came the lockdown. This too shall pass. And you need to be ready to ride the recovery wave, whether it is V, U or L shaped. Ensure your staff and stores are well-equipped to service customers with:

  • A sanitation protocol.
  • Update your SOPs with heath and hygiene checklists.
  • Standees with reassuring messaging.
  • Adequate housekeeping staff to always be cleaning.
  • Supply of essentials such as sanitizers, masks, and cleaning solutions.

 
4. Examine Your Costs
Look at your costs. See how you can cut travel and administrative costs. While most mall operators have agreed to waive the rent for the lockdown period, you can renegotiate your rent for the months ahead. Perhaps move to a % of revenue model rather than a flat cost.

 
5. Do Some Blue Sky Thinking
You may find yourself at home on the couch and this might be a great time to re-examine your business model:

  • Look out for new opportunities. Think about how shopping behaviours will change.
  • Work out a budget for the next 12 months with cost and revenue projections.
  • Explore partnerships to strengthen your online presence.
  • Look at collaborations to work out home delivery options.

 
To sum it up, while the times may be uncertain, over communicate and reassure your employees and customers, prepare for a recovery with a definite action plan, examine your costs, and use the time to re-examine your business model and build partnerships.

 
BS Nagesh, the retail veteran and former chairman of Shoppers Stop with over 30 years of experience, who has seen similar situations before, ended the webinar with some wise words: The companies that keep the team together, stay transparent and honest to the people, share the pain, and connect with consumers have survived (previous crises). Those were wise words that every one of us can learn from.

 
Here’s hoping we beat this crisis sooner rather than later. Take care and stay safe.

 
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