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I'm Eating Better Than You!

Being quarantined with an Italian woman has some benefits.

Meatballs and sausage in a home-made sauce is definitely one of them!

The sauce was jarred fresh and made from tomatoes grown by Guy’s father last year. With meat and sausage from Scaglio’s (the area’s best butcher) this was the quarantine-meal I have been waiting for.

And while it’s still cold and rainy here in Stamford, the ground at my father-in-law’s has already started to give us the early-season goodies: broccoli rabe! Fresh from the garden and so that means minesta! Minesta is an Italian soup that apparently can be made as many different ways as there are Italians. My mother-in-law Connie made us a batch with fresh broccoli rabe. It gets serves in a bowl over what they call polenta but to an American it would be closer to a piece of cornbread. Whether you call it cornbread or polenta it’s delicious.

This quarantine sucks! But at least I’m eating well!

During the week, I’m spending most of my time speaking to paint dealers from around the country and Canada.

Most have been significantly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

ALL independent retailers will be significantly affected by the economic side-effects of this pandemic. We will spend years speaking about it! But for now, while we are still in the early days of this crisis, I want to keep my focus on getting through it: surviving!

From my calls with dealers it seems that since this crisis first “broke” on us, many of us had a nice bump up in business. I have had MANY dealers share with me that they expect to see sales up 25% or more in March.

But they’re not fooled by the “dead cat bounce.”

Most are already starting to experience the precipitous slide down which will accompany this crisis. Stores are already starting to close in areas where closing is deemed safest by the owners or the government has ordered stores to close. Contractors, especially the Holy Grail of this channel the residential re-paint contractor, have all been significantly slowed or stopped by the current situation. Homes which would have been empty and available to paint during the day are now occupied all day by families working, teaching, cooking and surviving.

Most homeowners don’t want painters coming into their homes right now and proper application of social distancing makes painting inside a challenge at the moment, if not impossible. That part of the channel is drying up fast.

That means less sales in your stores.

But in every crisis, there will be winners and losers. With the coronavirus crisis we are all losers! But there will be some who at-least by an economic standard, will come out of this ahead. In-fact there are already some paint retailers who are showing early signs of success.

ALL the retailers I have spoken to who are succeeding right now are all doing a few simple things in common.

While they have all closed their stores to foot traffic, they offer a robust program for curbside touch-free pick-up as well as free, same-day touch-free delivery. Most are even offering other services at the curb such as delivering color charts and chips or other items that a customer may need to complete a sale.

But you have to do more than just offer those services to those that ask! You have to make certain to actively target your customers and communicate exactly what your plans are for continued operation. For your professional customers, you should have an organized plan in-place to call them ALL on the phone to let them know what you are doing to keep them supplied if they are able to get work.

Social Media!

I’ve shared frequently here about my belief in the value of social media. It is the cheapest and easiest tool to use to expand your store’s presence in your market. And the good news for you is that it can be done remotely and quickly. You need to get to work on that, NOW. ALL the dealers who I am aware of succeeding during these difficult times can communicate with their customers en-masse via social media: website, Facebook, Instagram etc.

You are going to need to be able to communicate with your customers during this crisis.

Whether those communications are regarding changes to your store hours or changes to the in-store practices, you will need to let your customers know about them. In an age when the status of your stores can change so quickly, only social media will be able to keep up with the rate of those changes.

If you have not done so already, you must NOW get active on social media. Start with your own website and make sure that it does AT LEAST these two things: has updated information about your hours if they have changed and secondly, it MUST address the current crisis and show how you are addressing the crisis in your stores (see touch-free experiences above). Once your website is up-to-date, push that same information out via your social media activity.

If this is all new to you, ask one of the 21-year-old kids you know. They’re all sitting around with nothing to do either!

There WILL be a disruption in your market because of this outbreak. Customers WILL change their buying habits. If you want to be here when all this dust settles, it’s CRUCIAL that you stay in front of these customers NOW, as they are figuring out their new buying patterns.

Social media is the easiest and cheapest way to do that!

Please stay safe and if you’re doing anything in your stores that is “working,” shoot me an email and I’ll share it with others. We will all have to help each other if this channel is going to survive this crisis and prosper again.


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