How retail shops can deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Important PPP update for 2021

On December 22, 2020, Congress passed a bill renewing funding under the CARES Act, including an additional $284 billion earmarked for America’s struggling small businesses. The rules and application process for PPP loans and forgiveness have been modified, with more businesses eligible for PPP loans, more expenses forgivable, and a simplified application process. Also there is provision for “second draw” PPP loans for businesses that received PPP funding in 2020.


In this 7-minute read:

  • SBA guidelines
  • Emergency financial assistance
  • How to help your employees
  • Emphasize sanitization policies
  • Plan for the future

Businesses all over the country (and the world), are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes your retail shop. You might not be shut down as often as restaurants and bars, but you’re probably impacted in a significant way. And your customers certainly are.

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Throughout this article we want to share ways that you can help your shop and employees limit the spread of the coronavirus and minimize the negative impacts to your business. 

With expert guidance from the SBA and CDC, we hope this article helps relieve some stress during this time and helps you prepare for the future. 

Guidance from the SBA for your retail shop

The U.S. Small Business Administration has put together a guide for businesses and employers to help with the impacts of COVID-19. Familiarize yourself with this advice and share it with your employees. 

Economic Injury Disaster Loan program

The SBA has disaster assistance programs in place for businesses that are heavily impacted by the virus. If your retail shop is experiencing significant revenue loss during this time and is located within a community that is eligible for this assistance, you can apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan to get additional funds.  

Go deeper: SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans: how to apply if you’re impacted by COVID-19

Guidance for small business owners

The SBA has listed the common issues that retail shops and other businesses may face during this time:

  • Issues accessing enough supplies and funds from the increased demand of certain products nationwide (i.e. toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, food items)
  • Trouble meeting customer needs if employees are affected by the coronavirus
  • Inventory may get depleted. Try to keep enough supplies available to work with increased demand
  • Increased costs associated with the need to clean your store more often
  • Difficulty with insurance: talk to your insurance agent to understand your coverage
  • Issues with customer communication: keep your customers informed of any changes to your business during this time
  • Make a plan for the future (we’ll help you with this later in the article)

Some tips for employee management

At this time, it is incredibly important to keep your employees informed and aware of the impacts of the coronavirus and how to maintain a clean and healthy store environment. 

Along with directing your employees to follow sanitary guidelines at work, you need to remember that they may be facing difficulties outside of work and maintain flexibility with their schedules. 

Adhere to CDC guidance for business owners

The CDC has identified several points to help you when managing employees. In their guide for businesses and employers, you can find some helpful recommendations:

Ask employees who are sick to stay home. Anyone who shows signs of respiratory illness or fever (of 100.4° F or higher) is recommended to stay home until they are asymptomatic for more than 24 hours. If testing kits are available in your area and coronavirus is suspected, go in for a test. 

Send sick workers home and keep them away from others. If any employees start showing symptoms of respiratory illness or a fever at work, send them home. Keep them away from other people and clean any areas that they have been in contact with. 

Make hand washing and respiratory etiquette a priority. Encourage your employees and customers to keep up with proper hygiene etiquette by placing handwashing and respiratory behavior signs around your store. 

Regularly clean the facility. Make sure it is always someone’s responsibility to sanitize areas where frequent contact takes place: shopping carts, checkout counters, doors/handles, shelves, and other places in your store. 

Share CDC guidance to take before traveling. Encourage employees who are traveling in the near future to familiarize themselves with the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the most recent guidance on traveling. 

Prepare for increased employee absences

As the coronavirus starts to impact more people in your area, your employees may be affected and need to stay home. Be prepared for this and maintain flexibility with your employees as they need to remain at home to isolate themselves or care for loved ones.  

Keep your retail store clean

It is imperative to regularly sanitize your store right now, and you should make resources available to your employees and customers to help in your efforts. 

Here are a few ways that you can maintain a clean facility and encourage those around you to help:

  • Advise everyone to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice) after breaks, using the restroom, or eating
  • Wash surfaces that are frequently touched on a regular basis: doors/handles, counters, shelves, shopping carts, etc.
  • Set up hand sanitizer stations throughout the store and have cleansing wipes available for customers to wipe down shopping carts

These precautions should already be priorities in your store, but they are especially important during a global health crisis. 

Make a plan for the future

It’s difficult to tell what the future may bring, but it’s good to be prepared. Whether your store will have increased customer demand or business is expected to drop due to the nature of the products you offer, let’s make sure you have a plan of action for moving forward. 

Is your business expected to drop?

If your store sells non-essential products–toys, clothing, beauty supplies, entertainment items, and others–then business may drop during this time and it could be difficult to keep the lights on. 

If you are facing revenue loss due to a drop in customers, then you might consider one of the following options to help with funding:

Read more: Emergency funding options for small businesses

Is your business expected to increase?

If your store’s offerings include essential items like food, cleaning supplies, medicine, and other necessities (or currently perceived essentials like sporting goods, firearms, toilet paper, etc.), then you have likely already experienced the spike in business that retailers all over the country are seeing. 

Make sure you are prepared to handle the increased demand by working to stock up on supplies and getting additional funding if needed. Some options you might consider:

  • Seeking loans to acquire more working capital for supplies
  • Keeping additional supplies in stock
  • Reaching out to multiple vendors/distributors for inventory

Keep up communication with your customers

As your store goes through changes during this time, whether you are closing or preparing for increased business, make sure to find ways to communicate those changes with your customers. 

You can update your customers on any changes by:

As you make these changes and communicate them with your customers, stay positive and let them know that you are doing your part to maintain a healthy store environment. 

Think outside the box

Depending on the type of retail business you run, you may need to get a little creative with the ways you are handling business during this time to help mitigate the spread of the disease and ensure that you are still receiving business. 

As seniors fall into the high-risk category for those affected by the coronavirus, many of them are afraid to go shopping and risk getting sick. Several stores across the country are reserving specific hours for seniors to come in and do their shopping away from the general population. 

Other stores are offering curbside pickup for those who want to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

Whatever your store decides on, be sure to share those offerings in your marketing efforts, on your website, social media channels, and in your store. 

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