Many small businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its global spread. I wanted to give a firsthand account of the impacts the pandemic had on my start-up retail business along with how I adapted to the situation and provide some perspective to help other businesses moving forward.
I am the third-generation owner of T-Shirts Etc., a retail shop started by my grandfather in the 1970s. My shop’s soft opening was on March 9th, 2020, and my grand opening date was scheduled for March 14th, 2020. Within that timeframe, the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard with Italy going into lockdown and the number of cases in the US racking up at an alarming rate. Before I knew it, Houston was placed under a stay-at-home and I had to close shop immediately.
The coronavirus situation made it a necessity for my start-up business to make a shift in strategy. The spring and summertime is usually the busiest time of year for my industry because sports leagues, organizations, and all types of events are in full swing. This year that was not the case and many things have been postponed or canceled altogether. The way I positioned T-Shirts Etc. West Houston would be paramount if I was going to make it through this pandemic because if I shut everything down, there is no way I could have made it through the first few months let alone the rest of the year. The crisis prompted me to create a COVID launch and highlight specific products that are relevant to the consumer's needs.
Luckily my business was capable of providing services to essential businesses and workers, after being closed for a couple of weeks I had to find a way to let them know I was able to service them and help. For example, when quarantine was announced, the panic and worries started to set in. Consumers began prioritizing health, wellness, and safety products. The demand for these basic needs began to outweigh the supply along with the online shopping market becoming overwhelmed. Therefore, I adapted and launched products such as customized face masks, hand sanitizer bottles, social distancing floor decals for the essential stores, and banners/signs for companies advertising curbside pick-up, delivery, or online services.
Eventually, life will start going back to some normalcy as COVID-19 cases decrease, as the market rebounds, and as people start getting back to work. The timing of everything going back to normal is still unknown and might not occur for several months. Therefore, in the meantime, businesses, like my own, need to continue strategizing and communicating value propositions to the customers and look for opportunities to capitalize on the change in consumer preferences.
As a business owner, I learned a lot throughout the last few weeks and had to pivot on how I would use what services I am able to provide to help essential businesses and do what I could to be productive. I also learned many things behind the scenes such as applying for loans, digital marketing, and much more I probably would have put on the backburner. Even though situations can be hard you can always adjust and adapt to make the best out of it.
There is still a lot of uncertainty right now for small businesses, but with a positive mindset in taking this opportunity to adapt to this period by improving operations for now and the future, there is always a tremendous opportunity.
Tough times don't last but tough people do. Stay safe and healthy!
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