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A Retailer’s Survival Guide to Coronavirus

Savvy ideas to keep retailers connected with customers and those registers humming.

 

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We ❤️ you! #shopsmall #shopMKK

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“Love in the Time of Cholera” might be a beloved book, but “Life in the Time of Coronavirus” is our unfortunate reality show. Yet in these trying times, it’s heartening to see how savvy childrenswear boutiques are answering the rallying cry and servicing their customers in creative ways. All while observing social distancing rules. Independent retailers are overcoming closed doors with free shipping, curbside pickup, Instagram shopping, personal Facetime shopping or one-on-one in-store appointments. Hand sanitizer included.

Below, some tips on how retailers can help themselves, and others, during this period. Take good notes, because once this all passes (and it will, we promise!), these ideas and initiatives are likely to stick around.

BE MORE SOCIAL (ON MEDIA)!

Social distancing? Ha! Not on Instagram! Social media is your store’s lifeline right now, especially with home-bound moms staring down extra time to scroll Instagram and Facebook. Use Instagram to reach out to customers with news, promotions and emotional support, even if you’ve always been a more high touch, in-person type of store. “I’m not big on putting myself out there on social media so I’ve definitely stepped out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing,” says Tiffany Seibert, owner of Snapdragon Kids in Athens, AL. “We’ve gotten responses from our social media Stories as well.”

For boutiques without an e-commerce site or online marketplace store, this is also a good time to amp up that digital initiative, especially if it’s been languishing on that 2020 to-do list. While texting existing customers options is always smart, Instagram and clever hashtagging will help you reach a much broader circle. Don’t know where to start? Hire a tech-savvy 20-year-old. Remember, colleges have recently closed and students are back home with Internet skills many retailers can only dream about.

CURATE BOXES, BASKETS AND BAGS

 

“When we faced this potential global shut-down, we started creating what we’re calling ‘busy boxes’ and got on our phones and Instagram to spread the word that we’d happily curate a box box of stimulating, creative and entertaining activities for children ages 12 months to 12 years,” says Laura Haftel, owner of Winter Park, FL-based Tugboat and the Bird boutique.  The program has far exceeded expectations. “We started with a few $125 examples on Instagram, which we mentioned that we could curate for any age and in any price point. We didn’t intend it to be an up-sell but rather a way to simply generate a few sales. But now, we’re finding most boxes going out have 8-10 items and average price of $185.”

 

OFFER VIRTUAL SHOPPING

 

For stores without websites, their main priority right now is moving merchandising sitting on shelves. Virtual shopping is one way around this. Rosa Lee, owner of Urban Toddler in Ann Arbor, MI, has launched a whole new business model featuring FaceTime personal shopping appointments by appointment. “It was an ‘aha’ moment and it’s turned out to be the bright spot we needed to move the needle forward during these uncertain times,” says Lee in a video sent out to customers. “I’m not just showing what we have but also helping moms put together baby and birthday registries.”

Vail, CO, boutique Skipper & Scout is trying a live Instagram shop where they walk around the overall store showing what’s in stock. “This may be the new way of shopping in general,” says owner Kerry Roach, who’s been trying to expand the store’s reach anyway beyond vacationing tourists. “We’ve been trying to get our customers to recognize and reach out to us well beyond their once- or twice-yearly visit!” Roach also points out that Instagram Live’s main viewership is tween girls 10-14, so she’s curious to see how it fares with the moms and grandmas!

SELL GIFT CARDS

 

 

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It’s The Perfect Time For A Lester’s Group Gift Card 💝 Individual Gift Cards Available Too!

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Selling gift cards lets customers support boutiques with immediate cash flow while still distancing themselves, perfect for moms buying for themselves, as well as groups of people doing a larger buy for a birthday party or baby shower.

 

OFFER CONTACT-FREE PICKUP

 

 

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❤️

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Curbside pickup isn’t something totally new, as moms with sleeping babies in the car will attest. Snapdragon Kids notes its downtown organization made signs reserving a pickup parking space for each retail and restaurant merchant to assist with distancing. “Customers really appreciate stores making such accommodations,” says owner Tiffany Seibert.

Haircut-and-toy store Lulus Cuts and Toys in Brooklyn, NY, sent a mass email to clients about its new contact-free pickup, touch-free Apple Pay and its new shipping initiatives and was overwhelmed by the response. “This is the first time I received such overwhelming response to an e-mail newsletter says owner Brigitte Prat. “As a small business owner it was really heartwarming!”

PROMOTE EDUCATIONAL (AND FUN) ACTIVITIES…

 

With so many parents donning their “homeschool teacher” hat for the first time, educational toys are a boost to any family home. Let customers know what you have in stock and what age groups they target. Kids need structure more than ever now, and parents need ways to help kids pass the time (remember, parents are still trying to get their own work done from home so activities the kids can do on their own are especially helpful). “One local mom was so thankful I’ve been promoting educational toys,” says Lulu’s Cuts and Toys’ Prat. With everything going on, she said she didn’t even think of calling her local store for activities for her 3 kids.”

…AND FAMILY PROJECTS

 

 

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Continue your kid’s education in the safety of your home kitchen. With @eat2explore, the whole family can have fun while homeschooling as you learn about the World while cooking!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Click our link in bio to learn how to use @eat2explore in your homeschooling! ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #eat2explore⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #homeschooling #homeschoollife #homeschoolrocks #homeschooler #homeschoolfamily #lifeofahomeschooler #homeschoolmoms #homeed #homeschoolkids #homeeducation #homeschoolfun #homeschoolperks #homeschoolfamilylife #homeschoolcurriculum #homeschoolmama #homeeducator #homeschoolmom #sonlight #homeschooldays #sonlightstories #becausehomeschool #howwehomeschool #homeschoolscience #homeschoollookslikethis #homeschoolers #homeschooled

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Also important are projects the whole family can do together. “We’ve been selling more project-based items like art projects and toys,” says Erin French, owner of Lively Kids in Newburyport, MA. “We’re especially doing well with our  Eat2Explore boxes, which offer educational family fun and are adaptable for any age.” These cultural and location-based kids offer recipes, spices as well as helping tools levels like stirring for a toddler or maybe pitting an avocado for an older child. “It’s a way for the whole family to make dinner together.”

REMEMBER THOSE IN NEED

 

 

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🍓 Located in Covington, Louisiana; Northshore Food Bank is serving 50% more people than before the Covid-19 outbreak (and that is just in one day!) Due to schools closing and service-industry people losing hourly jobs, more people are depending on Northshore Food Bank to supplement their groceries. With the 50% rise in distribution in day one they now need donations to keep going. 🍎 Now thru March 31st: 30% off all online purchases will be donated to Northshore Food Bank. Upon checkout you will be emailed a coupon code to use on your next purchase (some exclusions apply). 🍌 Donations will be directly sent to Northshore Food Bank to buy the necessary supplies they need to serve the community well. #give #giveback #smallbusiness #peoplehelpingpeople #helpingourneighbors #payitforward #shoplocal #shopsmall

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It takes a village, and communities in need are growing. Lil Lagniappe in Covington, LA is using proceeds from its own retail sales to help a local food bank supplement its grocery supply. Promoting the effort helps spread good will and lets consumer know how they can help.

HOLIDAYS MAKE EVERYONE’S DAYS

 

Nothing spreads cheer like a holiday that kids look forward to all year, even if big family functions get replaced with more intimate at-home celebrations. With Easter fast approaching, retailers are getting creative to move merchandise that’s already stocked in their stores, making pre-made Easter baskets for curbside pickup, promoting clothing and accessories, not to mention Easter egg dyeing kits or plastic eggs for hunts.

OFFER COMFORT

 

Comfort clothing and toys can be the new comfort food. Even small kids too young to understand what’s going on can pick up on parental anxieties and a change in routine. Retailers can do Instagram posts, promotions or packages centered around this theme. “Fuzzy, comfy pajamas have definitely been selling right now,” says Bernadette Barron, owner of Hopscotch, a children’s clothing, gift and furniture boutique in Maplewood, NJ. The store has also been promoting its wide array of cozy plush toys guaranteed to make any kid smile.

STAY HEALTHY!

“We are reassuring anyone who does come in that we are cleaning door handles, credit/debit card machines and only have one pen out for signatures and are sanitizing it after every use,” says Delanna Taylor, owner of Inscriptions & Baby Chic in Fort Smith, AR. “So far everyone so appreciate of these actions. More than anything, people want to be reassured, but they also want to be around calm.”

WORK TOGETHER

 

 

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We at KICKEE believe it is important for a community to stand together and do what we can for the betterment of one another. Our minds are on our local small business and their employees who are going to to rely on small acts of kindness to stay afloat. For our part, we will be running a week-long, online event, starting Friday, where we will pass along 35% of your purchase to an eligible KicKee retailer of your choice! Contact us or your local retailer to find out their store code. Simply input the code at checkout, and we will send a check for 35% of your purchase to your favorite store! SAVE THE DATE for our virtual event STARTING ON FRIDAY, MARCH 20th at kickeepants.com #supportKICKEEshops

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Suffering stores shouldn’t have to weather the storm alone, and pajama company Kickee Pants has come up with a way to give back to its stores, plus help consumers support their local store. During its week-long online event #supportKICKEEshops, the company will kick back 35 percent of consumers’ purchases back to retailers selected by consumers. “We were brainstorming on a daily basis ways to keep our retailers afloat and we really want to show our support,” says Kendall Schwartz, Head of PR. “Also, as stores close or limit hours, we know they’re focusing strong efforts on their websites, so we’ve loosened up requirements for selling our products on their websites at this time.”

 

STAY POSITIVE & LOOK TO THE FUTURE

 

 

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Choose love 💕 Cherish these moments with family! #skippersquad

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Keeping a good attitude and looking toward the future goes a long way. “Somehow I think people want to see and look past what is going on now,” says Skipper & Scout’s Roach, noting the store is having success keeping kids hopeful selling camp merchandise. “It’s like getting in shape and having a race you’re training for. It keeps you motivated and hopeful!” Besides, how often do parents get this extra time with their kids?

 

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I held off crying until I read this today….felt good to let it out. Xoxo ❤️Rosa

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