Coping with COVID-19: the essential tools your retail business needs right now
If you write the word “crisis” in Chinese, there are two characters. One means danger and the other opportunity.
Obviously COVID-19 is affecting every business, every worker and every person in the world. And while safeguarding yourself and your people should be priority number one, smart businesses are already looking for opportunities to better prepare themselves to bounce back stronger, including by investing in better tech to make better decisions..
So, in talking with some of our customers and leaders in the retail sector, we have compiled a list of digital tools, advice and information on Government assistance which can help you get through.
No matter what you do for business, this is an extraordinary and difficult time and while we advise you to consider official websites and information and get personal, professional advice before making any business decisions, we hope this information can help you make sense of the changing situation.
Before we start
In this unpredictable time there are only two certainties which we encourage everyone to follow: listen to the advice of the experts and authorities and protect yourself with good health and hygiene habits. Together, this can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and can help those who are most vulnerable get through and millions of businesses around the world bounce back.
We are proud of the work you’re doing
The worst in this virus is bringing out the best in the people who work in industries like yours, changing the way you do business overnight sometimes and investing in the people who matter — your employees and your customers — to save as many jobs and offer as many services as possible. We want to support you and your business to come back from this crisis even stronger.
More than ever, businesses like yours need a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed and we have a few ideas to help.
We celebrate those on the frontline
With the sad and distressing news about vulnerable people coming out of countries across Europe and around the world every day, we are proud of the thousands of healthcare workers who are still doing such an extraordinary job in such unbelievable times. We are proud to support thousands of care home and healthcare workers across the UK and other parts of the world as they take on one of the most important roles during this crisis — caring for the vulnerable.
So remember three things. Stay safe. Stay in touch. Stay calm.
We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times and we hope you find this ebook useful as you deal with COVID-19.
How to set your retail business up to bounce back
There’s not a business or a person in the world unaffected by COVID-19. While advice from authorities and experts must be followed at all times, we understand many retail businesses are struggling and many have had to make incredibly difficult decisions.
But beyond that, there are opportunities to make a few smarter decisions now to put yourself in a better position to bounce back when normal business trade resumes.
Remember your people
We know this is a really stressful time for everybody working in and around the retail sector. It’s heartbreaking to see many of the stories and images of people whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by this crisis. We understand many businesses will have to make decisions that they would have never thought possible less than three months ago.
- Check in on your people’s mental health — it’s one of the best investments you can make.
- Make sure you’re as clear and regular in your communication as you can be.
- And make sure they know about the abundance of support measures from Governments, charities and other organisations for payments, mental health and other information when they need it the most.
Your people are the best asset in your business. And when retail businesses and the experience economy you offer bounce back into trading, you will need all hands on deck to make it happen.
To be prepared for that, you need to look after your people properly now. Discerning consumers will look for good people and great experiences when they go back to spending their money on entertainment. Remember that while outstanding experiences like product knowledge, understanding and advice is what makes your business work, it’s outstanding people — the ones already working for you — who make that all possible.
Smart businesses get this and invest in their people. For our guide in treating people right and making better business decisions, head over to a blog post from our People + Culture expert Nikki Thorpe here.
Take advantage of Government support
Around the world, many Governments are announcing support packages for businesses to help them get through. In many cases — such as Denmark and the UK — this can include support to cover part of your employees wages for eligible businesses. These are fantastic measures which should be taken advantage of and you should use to make sure the greatest asset in your business — your people — are there to help you bounce back even stronger post-crisis.
Take the time to consider the advice for each of the markets you operate in and see what can be done to help your business get through. If it’s challenging to get your head around the specifics of what this means for you, consider contacting the Government agency or your local elected representative to make sure you’re getting the right advice.
Update your employee handbook
It sounds like a cliche, but teamwork really does make the dream work. One of the most important parts of setting the culture and tone for your business is the employee handbook where your policies, procedures and expectations are formally communicated to new and existing people in your business.
Use the opportunity over the next few weeks to consider what your policies and procedures are — do they need an update? Were they able to handle the recent challenges you have faced? Make sure they are also communicated in a way that makes sense for everybody.
Use social media to keep things fresh
A vibrant and active social media channel is a vital part of any employer branding or good business marketing, but in the challenging times of COVID-19 it is even more important.
With so many people now working from home, your chance to connect with them has never been greater. Use this chance to showcase your products and services in a new way and appeal to people who are spending more time online than they usually do! Maybe it’s a chance to refresh your imagery or write a new bio?
For some tips in how to attract new customers and ideas to grow and expand your market, check out this blog from our industry expert Brett Smith.
Use delivery platforms
With all those people working from home and looking at your social media more than ever before, they’re probably going to want to buy some of your stock.
If you’re not already, now is a great time to register with reputable delivery platforms or scale-up your online store so you can keep moving stock and maybe even put extra people on to manage the distribution.
Companies like Amazon are committing to the scientific search for a COVID-19 and scaling up the distribution of essential items the world needs now. If that sounds like you and your business, look into whether or not this is a chance to change the way you work.
Look after your customers
Now is a great time to study the purchasing data of your customers and think about the products or types of products they like. Are there some patterns to what different customers like or might want? Could you reward their repeat purchases with loyalty or package deals grouping products together?
Take the opportunity to set up a reward scheme for people who are repeat customers. You might even change the purchasing process for your staff in-store so they know when someone is a frequent shopper at your business, so the customer knows their loyalty is appreciated, with reminders of what they purchased recently, or letting them know of any upcoming promotions.
Of course, all these things are then made easier with an all-in-one ecosystem for payment and POS platform that just works!
Revisit your staff development and growth plans
Your people are the best asset in your business — and when we talk to the people who make your business do what it does best, we often hear that people want you to invest in them and their careers. By thinking about how people can have a long and successful career with you, you can set your business up to bounce back even stronger.
Over the next few weeks, use the opportunity to ensure you’re thinking about ways to keep your people up to date with the latest trends and innovations, that all safety requirements and qualifications are complied with (and up to date in Planday) and that everyone who works for you has a chance to grow and shape their career.
It’s an essential part of good employee engagement, it will help keep your best people for longer and will make a real and positive difference to your business in the long run.
Government assistance for retail businesses during COVID-19
There is a lot of support for retail businesses and workers at the moment, so make use of all the help you can get, to get through this challenging period.
The UK Government has announced it will pay 80% of people’s wages if their employment is affected by COVID-19, up to £2,500 a month. This is so people who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis can continue to get the support they need to get through.
Business rates holiday for retail companies
For businesses that are in retail, hospitality and the leisure and entertainment industries, there is a rates holiday available for the 2020-2021 tax year for businesses in England. If your business received a retail discount in the 2019-2020 tax year, that will be reimbursed by your local authority as soon as possible.
If you run a business in the UK but outside England, we advise you to get in touch with your local authority and see what eligibility criteria apply for you.
You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:
- your business is based in England
- your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector
And your business is mainly using your premises:
- as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
- for assembly and leisure
- as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation
How to access the scheme
There is no action for you right now. This will be applied to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.
Cash grants for retail businesses
A series of cash grants are available for retail, leisure and entertainment and hospitality businesses under the UK Government’s Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme. It gives some of those businesses in those sectors affected by the COVID-19 crisis a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.*
There are similar criteria for this as there is above, but as always you should check official websites and check in with your local authority to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.
Deferring VAT payments
All businesses will have VAT deferred for three months, running from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. The Government’s advice is that this is automatically applied to all businesses so you won’t have to make an application to access this. If you’re a business which pays its VAT or income tax via direct debit, you should make sure you cancel it.
Help with paying your people while they’re sick
It can be tough covering things when you have sick staff at the best of times, but it’s even more stressful these days. Businesses with fewer than 250 people working there will be able to claim two weeks’ worth of sick pay back from the Government if they have been off work because of COVID-19.
Support for self-employed businesses
For the many business owners who are self-employed, you can apply for assistance to get a cash grant of 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profit over the past three months, capped at £2,500. While this will help businesses such as hairdressers, who will often have several people in your team, if your taxable profit above £50,000, you will be excluded from the scheme.
As well as the limits on the number of staff, there are a number of other things to consider:
- the size of an business is defined as the number of people they employed on 28 February 2020
- you should maintain records of staff absences and payments, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
Loans and finance for businesses affected by COVID-19
There is a loans and finance scheme in place for businesses whose trade has been interrupted by COVID-19. Up to 40 lenders will be able to administer the scheme to businesses like yours, including all the major banks.
This means businesses like yours could be eligible for access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years. The Government will cover the interest payments for the first year and any fees levied by your lender, as well as offering a guarantee of 80% (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders the confidence to assist you in getting access to finance should you need it.
How we can help
Planday is a communications tool to help you and your people stay in touch and informed. As COVID-19 continues to challenge the way we work and the situation changes rapidly, here are a few key features we suggest you use in this period.
Shift swaps, changes and flexibility
As the situation with COVID-19 changes rapidly, businesses like yours will need to be as quick and agile as possible, understanding that your staff’s availability can change in an instant. For our tips on managing this quickly and simply, read here.
Quick templates to manage unexpected changes
No two days will likely be the same in the coming days and weeks, but using templates will help you get a head-start on whatever changes are thrown your way. Have a look at how some of our templates can help you schedule smarter.
Trigger notifications to instantly alert your employees
When things change quickly, it is vital to keep your people informed. Planday lets you send notifications and updates to your staff quickly, with notifications to make sure everyone gets the message at the same time. See how here.
*Please note: SMS messages may incur additional fees
Communicate with everyone in one go
It is more important than ever to make sure everyone is informed and no one misses any message. Planday helps you communicate with all your employees in one go. You can read more about it here.
Optimised scheduling: get the right person in the right place
Now is more important than ever to make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. To see how Planday helps you schedule by position so you have the right person every time, see here.
Planday guides — your ‘how to’ info in one place
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We support you
Look after yourself. Look after your people.
We know this is a really tough time for a lot of people and the challenge of living in the COVID-19 crisis changes every day. We are proud to help thousands of UK businesses as a communications tool that brings your team together in tough times like this.
We encourage you all to continue to monitor and follow the advice of medical and scientific experts – to stay safe and look after each other as we face this global crisis together.
We wish you, your colleagues and families safety, wellness and positivity during these challenging times.
This piece is general in nature and should not be taken as professional, legal or qualified advice. Before taking any action at this time, we urge you to read the terms and conditions of each of the relevant agencies and seek your own specific professional advice before making any business decision. All information has been sourced from Government agencies and websites and links are contained within. Information was sourced and up to date as at 27 March 2020 local time.