There’s one thing you can count on in retail: If it’s not one thing, it’s another. And that means change and new challenges are never far away.

With news about coronavirus dominating the headlines, concern over the spread continues to rise. We know the health and safety of your employees and customers is the number one priority, and the retail industry is responding. Many major events have been cancelled or postponed, and more and more travel restrictions are being put in place.

Those developments aren’t limited to retail, of course, but there are some circumstances related to the global spread of COVID-19 that are hitting retail particularly hard. From supply chain disruptions to store and mall closures, a number of challenges are emerging. Retailers are now bracing for the fallout from a potential pandemic.

And let’s face it: Things weren’t exactly rosy before in retail sales, particularly in brick-and-mortar retail.

It’s times like these that test the very best of retail leaders and their teams. MOHR Retail knows, because in our four decades of working with global retailers, we’ve seen this kind of crisis and uncertainty hit the industry time and again. And time and again, the actions organizations take in the midst of it all will determine how strong they’ll come out of it when we get to the other side.

While it can sometimes feel like the best response is to retreat and pull back, you can’t hide until it all blows over. If results mattered yesterday, today is no different—and what you do now matters more than ever before. The question is, are your people energized, inspired and equipped to step up to this challenge?

Here’s an action plan to ensure your business and field associates are prepared as well as ready and able to capitalize on new opportunities that may unfold during this time.

Multiunit Managers: Inspirational leaders are critical to getting through challenging times, and that means your District and Regional Field Leaders need to up their game in communicating and reassuring efforts at the store level.

Effective communication via virtual methods, such as conference calls, video chats, text, social media and one-on-one conversations, will be more important than ever, especially if travel has been reduced or suspended. Your multiunit managers’ effectiveness in leading their teams through change and uncertainty is what will create trust, reduce anxiety and keep people focused, on track and able to deliver results.

Store Leaders: As always, store leaders need to be laser focused on your customer—and they also have to be vigilant about keeping customers and associates informed. In volatile times, successful store leaders communicate frequently and reassure their store associates to minimize unnecessary distractions. They coach their people to ensure they’re consistently demonstrating the behaviors that will contribute to a positive, engaging customer experience.

Store Support Center and DC teams: These behind-the-scenes leaders and professionals play a vital role in enhancing productivity among departments and across the supply chain. Challenging times can put their collaborative and leadership skills to the test. Depending on the circumstances, they’ll need to “do,” “manage,” and “influence” to get results. It’s also critical that they be able to communicate the company’s position clearly and direct others as necessary to ensure a safe environment.

Every Customer Counts—even the ones who never set foot in the store. Leverage your omni-channel purchase options and increase your client communication through phone, text, email, and social media to reach your clients where they are and continue to service their needs.

Merchants: Strengthening relationships with vendors shouldn’t happen just when you need something from them. Buyers should make calls to check in on vendors and learn about how they are dealing with this impact. You may discover something about their business while building trust through partnering.

Is Your Retail Staff Ready for Coronavirus’s Business Impact?

Retail was already tough. But if you fail to put the required energy and attention into managing today’s challenges, you’re only going to be that much further behind. You can’t afford to alienate your customers during this time. In fact, now especially is when you need to show them you care and that customers matter most. Retreat is not the answer. If traffic is down in malls and shopping centers, it’s time to ramp up client outreach through text, calls, and social media and optimizing your omni-channel options.

The good news is, getting your team ready doesn’t have to be that complicated. We’ve been helping retailers deal with these kinds of issues through countless economic cycles, global crises and market dips. The key is to have a solid plan in place that encompasses a proven platform of high quality, retail-specific content and effective skill-building modules to fill the gaps and strengthen the behaviors that will drive results.

Get in touch with us today, and let’s explore how you can take advantage of our virtual, online and onsite training and consulting options to position your retail business for success, no matter what that next thing is.

  • We’d love to hear your thoughts: What’s your best tip for positioning the business for success during volatile times? Share with us on LinkedIn, Twitter,  or Facebook.

About Mary Beth Garcia

ary Beth has worked with a variety of retail and hospitality clients as a strategic partner, delivering leadership, communications, retail programs, consulting, and executive coaching for such diverse companies as Academy Sports and Outdoors, Altar’d State, Amazon Fresh, Advanced Auto Parts, Bvlgari, Cardinal Health, Compass Group, Darden, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Foot Locker Group, Haggar Clothing, King Ranch, LVMH, Michaels, Saks Department Store Group, SMCP, Southeastern Grocers, TBC, TJX Companies, Ulta Beauty, and Whole Foods Market. Prior to her consulting work, Mary Beth spent more than 20 years in retail management and operations for companies such as Macys, g.Briggs, The Bombay Company, and Sunglass Hut International, holding numerous leadership positions in sales, store, district, and regional management and corporate communications, training, and operations. Based in Miami, FL, Mary Beth served on the Executive Advisory Board for the University of Florida’s Retail Education and Research Department from 2003-2014. She holds an A.A. Degree in Retail Management and Fashion Merchandising from Bauder College.