NEW YORK: Many business owners are changing the way they make money as they attempt to recoup revenue lost to the coronavirus outbreak.
The changes can look subtle; for example, when owners of clothing stores decide to beef up their internet business. But often such adjustments involve an entire rethinking of the business model — the blueprint that encompasses the key aspects of running a company — with significant changes to staffing, technology and inventory.
For many companies, it’s a matter of survival, but for others, the changes have been a silver lining amid the crisis.
When Big Bottom Market, a cafe and food shop in Guerneville, California, closed in mid-March, “I had to take stock of what we had and think about how we could evolve the business,” says co-owner Michael Volpatt.
Volpatt started a daily cooking show on Facebook in hopes of drawing customers to Big Bottom’s page on the online marketplace Etsy. He succeeded: Daily visits jumped 66 percent and customers stocked up on merchandise including biscuit mixes, coffee, preserves and T-shirts. That revenue from Etsy covered Big Bottom’s monthly rent, utilities and insurance.
The cafe, which gets business from visitors to California’s Sonoma wine region, reopened with social distancing steps May 8, selling meals and merchandise at the door. Business is down 80 percent from its usual pace — the café can normally seat 40. During the week, the cafe’s business is mostly from people who live locally, but the weekends bring people from all over the Bay Area.
Volpatt doesn’t know when he’ll fully reopen the cafe but going forward he expects to get substantial business from the internet. He’s even hiring a staffer to help build Etsy sales.
Four months after launching the Velvet Window clothing store in Dallas, Amy Witt was forced to close its doors. She soon realized she’d need to adjust her approach to ensure customers came back when the store reopened.
“The forced closure gave me the opportunity to say, ‘what’s wrong with my business, how do I fix it?’” Witt says.
Before the outbreak, 85 percent of Witt’s business came from shoppers coming into the store. With the shutdown, she realized she needed to be more aggressive with social media to draw shoppers to her website; she needed revenue and to engage with her customers. She taught herself and her staff how to make Velvet Window more visible in internet searches. She picked up new customers, including some outside the Dallas area.
As she prepared to reopen May 1, Witt concluded she had to offer more services and accommodations in a retail environment reshaped by the outbreak. So she set up private shopping hours for some customers — for example, those most at risk for complications if they contract the virus. She’s using video or messaging apps to show her fashions to others anxious about coming to the store. Curbside pickup or deliveries can also be part of the deal.
She sees all these steps as elements in a new business strategy: “It’s something we will continue to offer” even after the current crisis ends, Witt says.