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Everything feels out of place. You would think it would feel good to run around mask-free — go to events, concerts, restaurants and jump on a plane. But to me, it just all feels odd. I think everyone has become a bit socially awkward.
Depending on where you live, it seems there is a variety of measures in place for our post-COVID-19 world in the retail space. Personally, since I have started to travel again, I see the hypocrisy in many of the steps — for example, staying six feet apart in line, then shoulder to shoulder on the plane for four hours. It all seems a bit much.
Showrooms are overwhelmed with demanding “Karen’s” who are entitled, demanding and often insulting to the showroom employees — leading to burnout and depression like never before.
Restaurants still have the partitions and Lexan up at the bars, and some are super lax in adhering to rules — in some ways, it’s as if they have given up. The CDC guideline change has thrown so much of what we were getting used to into a tailspin.
Then there are the folks who believed it was a hoax all along and proudly go maskless everywhere — and look down on those still wearing masks from uncertainty. My hunch is the showroom crowd will continue to be apprehensive; you should respect the parameters of what the consumer wants in the showroom, even if you have a counter and they feel differently.
I believe the smart retail showrooms won’t tear down the processes and protocols they have built. I hope design changes to homes and commercial space continue; those design changes turn into sales. My point is I believe we should stay the course of selling what gives our customers comfort.
For those who have given up on wearing masks, there is an equal amount of people out there who still would likely rather wear a mask, use sanitizers, stay distant and avoid crowds.
Where does that leave us? I would say we should be communicating this to our customers and making sure they continue the theater of sanitation in the showrooms. We should explore touch-free door hardware and consider a permanent redesign to maintain distancing. Explore more open designs and continue to use your website and your expertise to your advantage.
Keep it Local
The conversation also should remain on keeping the sale with you! So many consumers have switched to a pure e-commerce ordering style; they must know that using a local, independent distributor is more important than ever.
It is a known fact that twice as much money stays in the local economy using a local showroom instead of a national big-box or home center. The national entity must pay its shareholders and fund the corporate office. That money goes out of town and does not go back to buying lunch at the corner grill. Home Depot sends its money back to Atlanta.
And, if consumers are dumb enough to go and use Amazon, they don’t understand that seven times more money stays in the local economy. Amazon sends its money globally. If you like parks, little league, local shops, police and parks departments, I hope you can take the time to articulate to your customer the consequences of them heading this way.
You must deliver this message of “buy local” with passion and conviction to justify the slightly higher costs of material buy going with you. A great way to drive this home is to meet them at a restaurant or hotel for lunch and ask them if anyone from Amazon or the big nationals has been there for lunch — and pay with cash on the table to demonstrate the difference.
Do not worry; you are not alone. Every independent — lumber, kitchens, lighting, etc. — is experiencing the same effect right now. I hope you try to support them, talk to them and share ideas. It is a crazy time right now; the best thing you can do is keep your money local and keep your cash flow healthy.
Continuing Supply Chain Issues
The other big concerns we are all having are supply chain and HR issues (sourcing great talent). It is no different anywhere right now, and the best things I can suggest to you are:
1. Work with your local independent “friends” and share inventory. Stop buying from the national super distributors. Every sale gives them data; it’s like giving bullets to someone who is shooting at you. Just stop.
2. Do not bother using Indeed.com or LinkedIn as I have suggested in the past. Go find great people at other jobs and steal them. For example, Advance Auto Parts has great training for counter staff. Go in, shop for a part and if you find a great employee — offer him or her a job. It’s that simple, and it’s that aggressive right now.
Those people who are sitting on their asses collecting checks are not the people you want to hire. They want to not work. You do not need that. A great waiter or waitress who can remember an eight-person order perfectly would likely make an amazing showroom employee and have better hours.
The average company spends more than $4,700 to recruit a new hire. Why not just go to lunch at that local place and hire great local talent?
If I can suggest one more thing, it would be when you do hire someone, ask them how they learn. Is it hands-on training or do they comprehend better with an online program? It will speed up your onboarding and make you a better company.
Do not hire for degree or for experience. Hire for passion. Hire for overhead — meaning they must come to work every day because they have a family or bills or obligations they need to meet. It is a big help.
Keep fighting, keep growing and keep exploring those new products our new world is forcing upon us. I hope the unmasking of our country does not take away the trend of home renovation anytime soon. It is a great ride; let’s make the best of it.