Well, the “new normal” is still a moving target. What we thought was a sprint and then a marathon is turning out to be an ultramarathon. Now is the time to look beyond the “one step in front of the other” strategy of the past couple of weeks, and to start looking at what it will take to cross the finish line:
- Look at the temporary systems you’ve set up and do a realistic assessment of what you will need to improve or change to sustain it if the new normal is 8–12 weeks from now, as some are now predicting. This may mean asking publishers for additional boxes or ordering more bubble wrap. This may mean cross-training staff or taking a day off to recharge your batteries. It may be having a planning meeting with some of your team, or visiting one of the ABA online forums to share best practices with other bookstores.
- Refresh your messaging to your customers and your community. Consistent, authentic, creative, substantive communication with your customers right now is good for your ongoing relationship.
- Negotiate and communicate with every vendor. Make sure they know what's going on with your store. Ask for help. If you don’t know who or how, contact us.
- Remember that Amazon isn’t shipping books right now. If you are, use this to your advantage. Send handwritten thank you notes with every order, or write a quick message on the outside of the box. Throw in a galley. Send a bounceback coupon for back-to-school shopping. In other words, bring your in-store, personal-touch shopping experience to your customers’ experience shopping online with you.
- Prepare for changes in consumer behavior:
- Clean. Cleanliness will have a whole new meaning post-COVID-19 and customers will have a new expectation, especially in the short-term, when people are still skittish. Now is a good time to deep clean your store.
- Technology. These past few weeks, your customers have developed a new relationship with technology as many of them have used delivery apps, shopped online, and/or used Zoom for the first time. Look at ways you can improve your technology offerings. Add Apple Pay to your checkout. Make sure you have an e-commerce platform of some sort. Partner with delivery service apps. Add a digital gift card to your e-commerce site. Use Google text to communicate special orders. Etc.
- Experience. Offering virtual experiences now could gain you new customers for when your doors open again. People are stuck at home and increasingly bored. Your social media can have tremendous impact in connecting with your customers, and attracting new customers. Hold virtual author events on Zoom. Use Instagram Live for storytimes. Use Facebook Live. Create videos. Post animated GIFs on your social media.
- Focus on other revenue. Now is the time to start applying for relief money, grants, etc., and some deadlines are already fast approaching. Check the ABA website for opportunities in your region. Read the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Guide & Checklist, ABA’s summary of specific provisions of the CARES Act, or the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship’s CARES Act guide and frequently asked questions sheet. (And don’t be scared off by the term “forgivable loans.” These act like a grant rather than a loan.)
- Read ABA’s summary of specific provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Read the Department of Labor’s resources on COVID-19 and the workplace
- Importantly, read the department’s comprehensive Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers
The law provides employers with a refundable tax credit equal to 100 percent of qualified sick and family leave wages paid. Employers can claim the credit quarterly. And the CARES Act provides for advanced refunding of the payroll tax credits enacted in the Families First law. The credit for required paid sick leave and the credit for required paid family leave can be refunded in advance using forms and instructions the IRS will provide. ABA’s Advocacy team will provide updates as they become available.
For specific questions about how these changes may impact your store, contact your payroll or human resources company, your state’s Department of Labor, or reach out to ABA’s Advocacy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most importantly, we’re all running as fast as we can right now but we need to stop for a moment and consider the other side of the finish line. We will get there. What we do now will ensure we’re ready when we cross, and the new normal finally begins.
ABA is here for you. Please reach out if there is anything we can help with. We are an incredibly creative, resilient, supportive industry. We’ll get through this, together.