By Lindsey Turnbull
The restrictions placed on small and medium-sized retail businesses due to the Covid-19 corona virus pandemic have created for them a sink or swim situation; adapting by reaching out to customers, one by one, seems to be the way forward for business owners if they want to survive this new era of shopping.
Jodi Hunter and her husband Shawn Lunt are used to scores of tourists and locals perusing their Funky Monkey clothes store in Governor’s Square, a place that’s packed full of leisure and resort wear, jewellery and accessories for young and old, men, women and children. But when the store was required to close for lockdown, Jodi said she had to reinvent her business pretty quickly.
“It has always been a challenge, running a small business. We’ve always had to change and reinvent ourselves, constantly creating a new image,” she said. “But since lockdown we have had to work ten times harder for ten times less revenue. It’s hard. I’m not going to say it’s not.”
However, even though operating under Covid-19 restrictions have been a challenge, Jodi said she is at least able to provide some kind of retail offering for her clients.
“I’m grateful that we are still open,” she confirmed. “We are able to reach out to our customers through Facebook, Instagram, or through email or over the phone. I’ve even joined TikTok!”
Jodi said she provides virtual shopping tours for her clients, whereby she walks through the store videoing what is available. Sometimes clients know exactly what they want; sometimes she or Shawn model clothing to give clients an idea of what a certain piece of clothing looks like.
Jodi said there have been benefits to this new way of shopping.
“I’ve been able to better understand the needs of my customers by trying on the clothes and really seeing how they look, something I haven’t always had time for. In that way, when a customer asks me for something specific, I’m able to recommend a particular item because I know exactly what it looks like on,” she advised. “We have also developed a new fan base, with people who have not shopped with us before seeing our clothes and videos on social media.”
At the start of lockdown Jodi and Shawn were only able to deliver orders, but now they have been allowed to offer curbside pick-up, which has been very helpful, Jodi said, as delivery took up valuable time for the couple. Jodi encourages people to see their offerings via social media and said she hoped people liked their humorous videos and posts.
“Keeping a sense of humour has been essential,” she confirmed.
Pure Art offers personalised experience
Pure Art has been another beacon for tourists and locals for decades, though lockdown has meant shutting the doors to walk in customers of this iconic South Sound building, full of artwork and other locally made crafts. Calling the situation initially “dire”, owner Debbie van der Bol said her business probably would not have survived had it not been for the fact that she had been able to offer a delivery service first on Mother’s Day during lockdown and now offering a personal shopping and delivery service to customers who call the store over the phone. Customers have often seen the art she has on offer via her social media postings. At the time of writing Debbie was awaiting permission to offer curbside pick up for customers, which she anticipated would be imminent.
“It’s been hard to keep track of new things to post as I have had to gear up my social media postings from maybe once a week to much more frequently,” Debbie said. “I used to laugh and wonder if once a week was too much! In that way, I can offer customers the chance to browse and see what we have in store.”
Debbie also offers her What’s App contact details (547 5522) so customers can enjoy the personal shopping experience, tailor-made for their needs. Debbie can correspond directly with clients, sending images of artwork that they might like. She has also used Zoom to chat with clients and has had clients send images from her Instagram posts of items they would like to purchase. Thankfully, Debbie said customers have been constant, looking for a punch of colour in their homes or to decorate their outdoor spaces, decorating with outdoor lighting and mobiles. Pure Art staff have delivered up to West Bay and out to Bodden Town, but Debbie, as with Jodi, said that curbside pick-up, would make things a lot easier for her.
Hoping that restrictions for shoppers will be lifted at some point, Debbie said she was already making plans for how people would eventually shop inside the store and was thinking about issues such as the wearing of face masks, limiting the number of persons inside and possibly introducing appointments.
Debbie said that it was crucial for everyone to think local when making their purchases, to keep businesses like hers afloat.
“Really well done to all small businesses who have adapted and managed to keep going,” she said. “We need to invest in our local stores. We have the time to shop at leisure and we can shop or buy gift cards.”
Shoppers should be able to find what they are looking for as shops are ready for the business.
“Expect stores to be very well stocked,” she confirmed.