Article by: Wesley Miller
Photos provided by Skate Works skate shop
Every skate shop is unique – which is part of what makes them so important. In discussing ways to get us all through COVID-19, our goal isn’t to tell you or your shop how to run things. No one knows your scene or your shop’s needs better than you. Instead, we know that we all benefit from a conversation about strategy. Our hope is to support that conversation. The coronavirus may be here, but we will get through it together.
1. Control Your Messaging
Be transparent with your customers. If you have not already, then communicate directly with them. The coronavirus affecting your business is far from a secret, and your customers will stay more engaged if you address it head on. Key points to discuss: hours, how to shop, sanitization efforts (if still applicable in your area), reaffirming your business purpose, and appreciation for their support. Continue to provide updates as necessary.
If you have not already, then update your voicemail, website, social media, and Google My Business page. Google now allows you to make changes to your business information that show how you are responding to the pandemic. Simply log into your My Business account, click on the “Coronavirus (COVID-19)” link, and follow the prompts.
Also, while this is a tough time, and it’s okay to be honest about it, people will respond better if you include some positivity and optimism.
2. Remove Obstacles
If your store is still physically open, have you communicated your plan for sanitization? When creating your plan, it is worth reading through the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines. While many of the younger skateboarders may not be as concerned, their parents probably will be. Are you offering curbside service? Have you considered local delivery? How about free shipping in your city? Can your customers make purchases online (see the next point)? Whatever obstacles your customers (or their parents) might encounter when thinking about shopping with you, do your best to offer solutions.
3. Get Online, Now
If you aren’t selling online yet, then now is the time. We’re skaters too, and we’d like to help, so while the crisis lasts, we’re offering Sellerdoor for free to skate shops. If we can support your shop, then sign up here or please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, we just want shops to be successful. If you don’t feel that Sellerdoor is the right place for you at this time, then we understand. The important thing is that you are investing seriously in online sales.
4. Engage and Keep Your Customers
These are different times, so it’s important to be open to new and creative ideas for keeping your customers engaged. Some brands have already responded: The Berrics, presumably, has shut down their park. Their response?: Battle at the Quarantine. eS just posted an excellent example of fitting the virus into their marketing and branding.
It’s no secret that revenue is going to be tough, so it’s important to proactively pivot.
A few ideas:
- Are you offering discounts, and, if so, are their opportunities to do so in ways that resonate with the moment? It’s a small example, but it is thoughtful: Kinetic’s discount code? “FLATTENTHECURVE”.
- How about offering a sale on gift cards to provide a quick cash flow?
- Some of your customers may not be skateboarding as much, simply because they are social distancing at home. Are you offering products that are relevant to that? It may not be “cool” at first glance (although, done right, you can always make it so) but offering something like Soft Trucks may be a good way to speak to the moment.
- See the Lotties shirt idea? While it looks like submissions are now closed, this is a helpful DIY example of thinking creatively and with shared purpose.
- Keep up with skate shop social media. New ideas are popping up daily. Whether or not Picasso really said “good artists copy; great artists steal”, the idea is spot on. Lean on your community and find new ways to engage during this time.
5. Fundraise, Thoughtfully
In light of the crisis, it’s no surprise that the number of coronavirus GoFundMe campaigns have exploded. GoFundMe even has resources at the ready for coronavirus fundraisers. Many companies, such as Facebook (to cite a prominent example), have created grants to support small businesses. A good number of these are specific to geographic areas. Here is a list from Forbes to get started, and new programs are emerging all the time.
While a traditional GoFundMe may be what you’re after, the most effective fundraisers also find ways to use incentives. For instance, instead of setting up a GoFundMe (and possibly getting lost in the noise), what if you created a membership club to support the shop through this time? Charge $50-100 per person and send each supporter a membership card that includes 10% off for a year, a shirt, public recognition, a raffle entry, and whatever other perks you can throw in.
6. Uncle Sam
You’ve probably already heard that you can wait until July 15th to pay your taxes. While this does offer some much appreciated breathing room, it may be good to file early (even if you postpone payment) in case you are owed a refund.
If it seems the right avenue for you, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering Disaster Loan Assistance loans at low rates on 30-year terms. It’s important to note that these are loans, and you will need to pay them back. We are not advocating for loans, but it can only be helpful to be aware that they are an option. Additionally, you will need to research your state, as they are not yet available nationwide.
Finally, keep an eye on the federal stimulus package. While the details aren’t fully clear yet, it does include earmarks for supporting small businesses.
7. Tune Out (a little) and Stay Hopeful
Try to take some mental time off from the virus. Even the CDC recommends unwinding a bit and taking breaks from the news and social media. Yes, times are uncertain, but we’re skateboarders: we’re tough, we’re resilient, and we’re in this together. Before we know it, we’ll be back to frontside grinding with our buddies again.