What Did You Learn During The Coronavirus Shutdown?

If you didn't take time to evaluate everything during the spring 2020 coronavirus pandemic, there's still time to do so.

What Did You Learn During The Coronavirus Shutdown?

Many of you probably played sports in high school or college and at some point heard something like this from your coaches: "You either move forward or fall back because there ain't no middle ground."

It's true, despite the grammar that makes English teachers cringe. Miss a day of practice or conditioning and you're not better than you were the day before. Miss two days and you're even more behind your opponent. If you're a bowhunter you know that laying off shooting for weeks or months requires time to shake off the rust. Most bowhunters I know, however, shoot at least four or five arrows a day or stay sharp in the off-season with 3D competition.

If you're in sales, you're aware of what your retail competition is doing or you should be. That doesn't mean having moles working in their midst. It means keeping up with them online, seeing if they're advertising in the local media outlets, what kind of sales they're offering and which goods they are stocking. And yes, you might indeed have a friend of a friend go shopping to give you an idea of what's on their shelves. Nothing wrong with that.

If you're a distributor or manufacturer, you're doing the same things but via other means. Your sales teams are talking with retailers about what's hot, what kind of news they're hearing, what's the gossip and scuttlebutt. You may have a friend of a friend or your daughter or Uncle Joe on their news release lists. You're just keeping up with things.

If you didn't take time during the spring 2020 coronavirus shutdown to evaluate what you're doing, why didn't you? That was a great time to take a look and make changes. One possibility is to eliminate merchandise that isn't selling. Here are a few other ideas:

Online Presence

With professional bass tournaments on hold, pro angler Mike Iaconelli hit social media hard to rep his sponsors. He already was known for his podcast, along with his wide open 250-hp attitude on life. The break gave him more time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to show specific lures, talk about topics and show some fun catches.

My local Fleet Feet running store does a "Live at Noon" session with local runners and experts. The store is now open and practicing social distancing, requiring masks, setting appointments and doing curbside service. The Facebook live sessions are just one way they're reaching customers and it's quite successful. It is informal, too. There's no big production effort and you won't think, "wow, that must've cost a lot of money!" It's just people talking about running stuff.

Shimano has been doing weekly live Facebook sessions with its pro anglers for freshwater and saltwater discussions. Being proactive by keeping the anglers and company name visible was, and is, smart.

Are you doing these things? Why not? "I don't like all that social media stuff" isn't a good excuse because your customers like and use it. You're not showing bloody animals or discussing quantum physics. You don't have to be a de Mille or Spielberg producing an epic film. Nor do you want Jimmy holding a product upside down while standing where someone coming out of the bathroom will be in the shot.

Having a good social media campaign can be a good thing. Ask some of your younger employees to help and look at everything before it's posted online. Make sure they don't do or say anything stupid that puts the store in a bad light.

Special Sales

A few years ago "Black Friday in July" became a thing as a way to give a middle finger to behemoth Amazon's "Prime Days." Those aren't around  anymore but you can still have a Black Friday in July sale anyway.

Why not? Are you too traditionalist to do that? Better get over it. Break out and do something different. Make people talk about you.

"Why is that store having that sale now? Maybe they have some cool stuff. I need to check it out." 

Have a big sale. Right now, or in a few weeks. Plan it now. Call it the "Just Because We Can" sale or something fun. Don't wait for the "pre-season sale" like your competition. Beat them to the punch. Maybe call  it the "We're Sweating Our Butts Off, Too! Sale" and have an ice cream truck or Icee machine and big fans.

Think outside the box while you're simultaneously burning that boring, comfort-zone box with a flamethrower so you don't have the urge to get back into it and close the lid.

Evaluate Your Staff

This one stinks and everyone knows it but it's a reality. You should be evaluating your staff all the time, along with finances, marketing and other aspects so you can be moving forward instead of sliding back.

Employees are part of this evaluation, even outside of performance reviews or regular individual meetings (which you should be doing, too). Are all of the employees necessary? Productive? Solid representatives of your store? If not, are the negatives things that you can work on with them to improve? And if not to that last question, why are you still keeping them on payroll?

As tough as it is right now, do you need to keep that person? Can you cut him or her and be better off without them? Can you do that and find a replacement, if needed?

Amid thinking of some fun things, this is a tough but necessary one to consider. Sports coaches don't keep second-teamers on the starting squad and don't keep malcontents on the team. You're the coach.

Food Trucks? Yes!

If your town doesn't have food trucks I hate that for you. Some of the coolest folks with great food run food trucks. Tacos, lobster rolls, pizza, other foods ... the variety is fantastic. A truck in our town has some of the best burgers and is a "You HAVE to go there" suggestion. And some of the best bahn mi I've ever had was from a Viet food truck.

So why not host a "Food Truck Saturday" if you have the parking lot to handle one or two? Invite a few, no strings attrached, ask what they need and get the word out. If you run a fishing shop, ask if fish tacos are available and promote that. Be creative. (Remember, you burned your box.)

Work With Your State Agency

Working with your state wildlife agency is a great way to build relationships and potential customers. 

If you have available space, host Hunter Education, Bowhunter, ATV, Boating or other courses at your store. You run a hunting store and don't want to host Boater Education courses? Why not? Get them into your store. Host all the courses.

If you don't have room to host, be the sponsor and host at a local venue. One of our local firearms ranges has classrooms and meeting space big enough for large gatherings. "Bowhunter/Hunting/Boating Education Night at Sue's Firearm Range" is a winner. Have some signs up, give the introduction to the presenter and sit back. The participants probably will appreciate the low-key salesmanship and remember it. Maybe offer 10% or 15% off their first purchase for more spark.

Or ... combine the food trucks with hunter/bow/boat/ATV education courses and make it a big event. Combine all that with a big tent sale and call it the Summer Outdoors Revival or something catchy. Perhaps invite one of your local craft breweries to participate.

Remember, you're thinking outside that box you burned. Evaluate and move forward.


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