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Peter Sheppard


As the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly emerge, there are some things that we know will be relevant going forward. The following characteristics of retailers, if applied, will enhance the likelihood of getting ‘across the bridge’ and emerging on the other side into a vastly changed world, fit and ready to thrive.

If you are not engaging with your customers, understanding their needs and desires, you will not be part of their shopping profile. Connecting with your customers during this time is arguably the most important activity you should be undertaking. So, building a strong community and keeping close to your customers is a vital ingredient to surviving and being part of the new retail world that will emerge. Building loyalty now will underwrite your success in the future.

Develop your online capabilities with the aim of not only selling online, which is vital, but also being part of the digital community. You not only need to be doing it, but you need to be doing it REALLY WELL’ in order to be noticed and not to disappoint those that engage with you. Embracing all the social media and channels and being involved regularly is important. Power has never been more in the hands of the customer.

Leaders need to be calm and adaptive during this crisis. How we reach the right decisions means we need to be informed and up to date on information, while being composed and reactive to the changing world. Business owners also need to be diligent and caring, have faith in the future and show strength to all that they lead.

Manage your cash super diligently. During these times preserving cash is of absolute importance and will be a key to survival. Exercise good cash flow management by completing a weekly cash flow forecast, working circa 6 months forward, prioritising outgoings and being conservative in estimating in flows. Talk to your creditors regularly and request patience as opposed to avoiding them. Seek extended trading terms from all suppliers. Having and knowing your cash flow plan reduces much stress and anxiety.

Seek to reduce your fixed costs as much as possible. Now is a good time to negotiate reductions in fixed costs so that when you emerge from this tough period the thresholds to achieve profitable trading is minimised.  This includes moving permanent staff to contract or casual arrangements will provide greater flexibility and increased productivity.  Now is also a good time to investigate what automation is possible in your business and be innovative in your thought processes.

There are many more aspects to being successful in this changing world. In the age-old adage, CHANGE IS THE ONLY CERTAINTY, has never been more relevant. If business leaders are not able to change what they have historically done, then they will become part of history and not part of the future new world.

Peter Sheppard is Head of Implementation at Retail Doctor Group.