I wrote a blog on 30/04/2020 regarding adapting as a small independent business to the sudden impact of Covid 19. I reread it today for the first time in a year. If you wish to read it it’s here BUT Oh My Goodness how naive does it sound now?
There are some nuggets of wisdom in there! To quote myself on the future on 30/04/2020-
“The landscape is changing and the economic future is uncertain. It’s scary, it’s difficult but it is a time of reflection. A time to re-evaluate My business and priorities. A lot of the plans I have put in place aren’t necessarily making money – it’s primarily to keep engagement with My customers.
I believe you can’t sit back and wait – you can’t simply reopen and expect everyone to come rushing back – it’s crucial – in my opinion, to put the hard work in now. I think at Sally Bee’s I will continue to evolve over the next 18 months.”
WOW if I’d only knew!
Little did I know or could have ever imagined that out of the next 54 weeks I would be closed for 30 weeks – 56% of the year. And of those 54 weeks, I would work almost every day just to survive! And, I am still standing and ready to reopen again next Monday 12/04/2021.
The irony of this situation is when I was allowed to open I was busy- there seemed to be an appetite for shopping local, supporting small businesses, and some pay off for the hard work that went into engaging with and helping customers when they really needed it. But three lockdowns – closing one side of your business and adjusting the other without your normal team has been exhausting and it takes a determined business owner to carry on throughout this relentless pandemic.
The learning curve has been steep – without any trade shows or physical visits from suppliers everything has been bought virtually – I have learned along the way – the good, the bad, and the ugly on buying virtually – some of the meetings are best forgotten, some were hilarious and others were so slick – as if they had always traded this way!
And the same with customers – it’s been virtual -Some of the things I did with customers worked – some didn’t! Some things customers loved – others not so much. But it’s been all about keeping on going and not giving up!
I talked in my first blog about evolving at Sally Bee’s and we definitely have – the virus has made the buying process harder but has made me readdress the offer, trying new things, experimenting, and gauging the customer’s reaction.
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During lockdown 3.0 I have utilized the time to refurbish the store & website – rebranded from Sally Bee Gifts to Sally Bee Lifestyle. This has kept me positive & focused it would have been easy to give up in January! Becoming a Lifestyle brand has been a process over the last 12 months – the emphasis has changed – Sally Bee Lifestyle is a carefully curated Lifestyle brand showcasing homeware, fashion & gift ranges.
Would this shift have happened without Covid? A difficult one to answer, to be honest, with the high street chains suffering and a new surge in shopping independents and shopping local – I think the Independents that have worked hard through the last 54 weeks, those who have evolved and listened to their customer will have a fighting chance in this difficult retail environment. I follow lots on Instagram that have done fantastic jobs and deserve to be successful. Not only have they adapted their businesses but have helped the community where they live too. And worked incredibly hard!
The retail landscape is changing rapidly, it’s hard to keep up, to be honest, and the next couple of years will be brutal. Let’s see what the next 18 months bring – I am offering no predictions! All I will say is I am ready to go again on the 12th of April – with lots of new products, a refurbished store, and a new logo – it’s been a busy year already and I haven’t even opened the doors yet! Plus there might be another venture in the pipeline but that’s for another day!
“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”
James Lane Allen NOVELIST