Capture Strong Sales During an Unpredictable Holiday Season

 
By Amy DeGeer Roten

This holiday season, there is one thing retailers can rely on: uncertainty will continue to disrupt sales.

To help retailers adjust (again), I spoke with Meegan Holland, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Michigan Retailers Association, about how retail can capture holiday sales during an unpredictable holiday season.

End-to-End Changes for Retail.

From procuring stock to upscaling e-commerce websites and implementing new, customized delivery options, retailers are working hard to adjust during these challenging times. As we enter month nine of the pandemic, here are some takeaways and potential solutions to help you ring in the holiday sales.  

The customer always comes first. Regardless of the point-of-contact or the point-of-purchase, your customers are the reason you get up every day. Make sure to stay in touch with them using personalized, targeted messaging on channels they visit. Remember to end your outreach with a call to action – ask your customer to do something: shop, visit, share a post, make a referral, buy a gift card, etc.

Overall, consumer buying habits have changed. This year, online sales are expected to triple. Consumers are making fewer trips to the stores. When they do go, they buy more. These new buying patterns require a re-evaluation of inventory turnover ratios and procurement strategies. Retailers have recognized the potential of running out of stock. “Last quarter, there were record numbers in imports. Retailers are stocking up because it’s unpredictable,” Meegan said.

Additionally, consumers now expect same-day or next-day delivery, regardless of point of purchase and delivery location. For e-commerce fulfillment and retail distribution, the potential solution is on-demand or flexible warehousing.

Change up the supply chain. Two ways to describe supply chain channels this year? “Bottleneck” and “shortage.” Supply chain shortages continue on products such as hand soap or toilet bowl cleaner. “The strange supply chain glitches seem to have no rhyme or reason,” stated Holland. Inevitably, supply chain shortages will continue through the pandemic. It’s a ripple effect channeling down from manufacturing.

What’s the solution for retail? Balance your supply chain by broadening the vendors you use and investing in flexible delivery networks.

Registering on Pure Michigan Business Connect can connect small businesses to new vendors or distributors. Once registered on the platform, a PMBC representative can help you secure one-on-one meetings between purchasers and suppliers and provide a list of companies to meet your procurement needs.

Whether you have 100 vendors or three, vendor relationships are more than just placing an order. Relationships can be key to better payment terms, new product discounts, lower restocking fees, and expedited shipping.

All stocked up? Now deliver. 

With COVID-19 once again shuttering stores as well as people in their homes, retail has become more delivery oriented. Home delivery, same-day delivery, in-store pickup, curbside pickup are all options that most have implemented.

For the holiday season, an omnichannel delivery strategy is vital to meeting customer needs. However, take careful consideration of your brick and mortar or warehouse location as delivery models may not be equally effective.

Pacify cranky customers, or at least stay out of their way.  

Let’s face it. People are stressed. Retail employees can be the unintended target. “Retailers have had to train employees on how to handle cranky customers. Employees are afraid that any customer interaction could end in conflict. They’re afraid to intervene between customers who are arguing,” said Meegan. The best course of action is to remain calm and try to de-escalate. Try to identify and avoid triggers. Many employers are allowing staff to minimize contact with the hopes of lowering confrontations.

Last but not least, encourage people to buy local. More and more, people understand the power of their shopping dollars. Last year, Michigan residents sent $18.5 billion to out-of-state online sellers. Imagine the impact on local businesses if we kept those sales here.

This holiday season is an opportunity to build strong relationships, change up your marketing and sales strategies, and hold on to return customers while capturing new ones. The tips above can help you reach your sales goals through the holidays and well into next year.

For more information on any of the strategies above, visit the Michigan Retailers Association, email mba@mbami.org and visit http://www.mbami.org to keep up on the latest tools to help your business grow.

READ MORE

Local Business Grows 36% During COVID-19 Shutdown

By Amy DeGeer Roten

The Coronavirus has created a devastating impact on public health, as well as economic shock. However, COVID-19 has not impacted all industries equally. Some companies deemed essential by the State of Michigan are experiencing growth, albeit, not without challenges. This post will highlight how COVID-19 has supported some growth opportunities while simultaneously creating obstacles and how Impact Analytical worked through the inimitable challenges facing “essential” business to reap the benefits of 2020’s unforeseen opportunities.

Midway through the third quarter and Impact Analytical (IA) has experienced 36% business growth. Looking ahead to 2021, the company is forecasting $6 million in revenue. They’ve added four new employees and will likely add four to six more over the next year. They have plans for more than $1 million in capital investment, and they’ve penetrated new markets and captured new clients to help improve public health as well as their bottom line all during a global pandemic.

Strategy Meets New Opportunity

Impact Analytical President Neil Chapman (Courtesy of Crain’s Detroit Business)

Since 2013, IA has focused on strategical growth. President Neil Chapman explained, “We focus on specific sectors – we do not try to be everything to everyone.”

Unlike any other testing lab in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Impact Analytical can detect low levels of contaminants in many different materials. The 2020-21 strategy called for a focus on six sectors: bioanalytical, agrosciences, specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals, health and beauty, and medical devices. When the strategy was being developed, they had no idea that a pandemic would create a staggering increase in demand.

When COVID-19 hit, the surge from pharma and medical device sectors skyrocketed. Impact Analytical rose to the occasion and won contracts with multiple companies and organizations to provide testing of medical devices for the transportation of life-saving drugs and other pharmaceutical products that work with the COVID-19 testing kits.

But trying to meet new demands while social distancing, staggering shifts, embracing a remote workforce, and implementing pandemic-related requirements for HR and MIOSHA made filling orders tough. Chapman said, “I think some of the state mandates made business a challenge. For instance, we implemented staggered shifts to minimize human interaction but the state mandated that a supervisor needed to be on-site whenever workers were present. As a small business, that is incredibly difficult to achieve.”

Many businesses struggled to find their way, but IA had a leg up on these protocols. “As a lab business, PPE is our normal mode of working. We operate as a tightly controlled unit which makes us pretty self-sufficient,” Chapman explained. “Within 24 hours, we were able to implement face masks, social distancing, and work remotely where possible. Our operation did not stall as we implemented these changes.”

During the shutdown, IA kept up with the new pharma and medical device demands. When the State of Michigan rolled back the mandates and allowed certain sectors to reopen, IA had a backlog of work that came in surges.

The ability to detect low levels of contaminants in many different materials differentiates Impact Analytical from other testing labs in the Region and the State.

Manpower Fuels Prosperity

Chapman credits IA’s talented and cohesive team as the power that has fueled the company’s prosperity. “I hire for character and train for expertise. They have to be able to think, be adaptable and willing to learn, and do different things,” he explained. He cited the intangible qualities of IA’s people as a vital element to success.

Historically, finding qualified, experienced people and convincing them to move across the country has not been easy, but the dedicated and deliberate search for the right employees has been worth it. IA has successfully recruited and retained employees and leadership from Texas, Arizona, and Minnesota, among other locations.

When it comes to talent recruitment, IA does not have the resources for an in-house team or an outsourced agency. The task falls on leadership to be agile, resourceful, and dedicated. The company uses its website, LinkedIn, and Indeed.com to recruit talent. “Those are our key tools for hiring staff. Recruiting fees can be crippling for a small business. I believe if Michigan wants to grow and attract talent, a statewide, government-funded recruiting group (be it a job board or dedicated recruiters) could easily attract more technical workers to the State.”

In the end, a global common purpose fueled rapid, innovative decisions that allowed the small, resilient analytical testing lab to give back to the community and society, improve the health and welfare of people, and capture the unforeseen growth presented by COVID-19.

Learn more about Impact Analytical’s services by contacting Neil Chapman at chapman@impactanalytical.com or visit the website.
To learn more about how the MBA can help your business grow, email mba@mbami.org, visit www.mbami.org. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
READ MORE

Updated Workplace Guidelines Issued by MDHHS on Friday

This past Friday, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services issued new guidelines. If your business includes office settings, keep reading for this essential update.

In response to an increasing number of outbreaks in offices, and in addition to the previously-released guidelines, MDHHS has announced this enhanced restriction. Text directly from MDHHS’s announcement:

“The responsibility to maintain a safe workplace is paramount, and strongly suggests that employers should allow their employees to work from home if possible. In order to minimize the presence of individuals gathered in work settings where COVID-19 may spread, employers should only permit in-person work when attendance is strictly required to perform job duties.

A “strict requirement” for in-person work means that a worker is unable to physically complete required job tasks from a remote setting (e.g., like a food service or auto assembly worker, or a job involving protected data that cannot be accessed remotely).

It should not be construed as permitting in-person work solely because working remotely may result in decreased productivity or efficiency (i.e., because an employee may be more effective / efficient in person) or because of there may be additional costs related to performing work remotely (i.e., costs for equipment like laptops, VPNs, software licenses).”

You may read the entire PDF document at this link. And, the most critical resources are posted here on our website.

The Midland Business Alliance will keep the business community informed as public policy continues to be set in response to the COVID-19 situation.

READ MORE

Midland County’s Answer to the Childcare Challenge

COVID-19 is putting child care providers out of business, which means negative economic impact for all.
By Amy DeGeer Roten

The child care industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. As an industry nationwide, it lost 370,000 jobs between February and April 2020, less than half of which have been recovered as of June. The impact affects our economy and touches everyone.

An Existing Problem Made Worse

A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute found that 45% of parents with young children who used child care before the pandemic said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to meet their current child care needs. By late July 2020, more than two in five families who used child care before the pandemic had none.

While child care centers and providers have been allowed to remain open for essential workers, many kids were pulled out of care due to public health concerns. Providers were left with a reduced headcount of more than 50%. Reduced headcount means reduced revenue.

COVID-19 protocols for child care providers has created time and capital challenges. tal. Simultaneously, daycare expenses went up as providers worked to follow Executive Orders and implement social distancing strategies, intense cleaning and disinfection efforts, modified drop off and pick up procedures, new screening procedures, and new equipment. The timely and expensive protocols combined with reduced customers have put a good percentage of home-operated daycare providers in Midland out of business for good.

In a nutshell, for an industry with slim pre-COVID margins, the pandemic has made it tenuous to continue operating. “Child care providers simply have limited capacity,” explained Midland County Great Start Collaborative Director Micki Gibbs.

Today, the child care industry has partially recovered but it continues to be unstable. Working parents need a trusted provider to care for the most important thing in their lives: their kids. Child care options are minimal as the providers that are still operating do not have vacancies. Without child care, working parents may need to quit their job or take reduced hours.

Employers feel the impact, as well. Lack of child care negatively affects employee retention and lowers business productivity. Losing employees, for any reason, is expensive and can cost the employer approximately 1.5–2x the employee’s annual salary for hourly workers. Furthermore, it increases stress and anxiety, which no employer wants for their workforce.

Helpful Resources and Solutions

For resources and potential solutions, Gibbs and The Midland County Great Start Collaborative can help by connecting both employers and employees to child care providers. It’s is a network of service providers, parents, businesses, community leaders, and educators who work together to provide coordinated support for families of children from birth through age five.

An important component of the Great Start System in Midland County is the Parent Coalition, which oversees the planning, implementation, collaboration, and ongoing improvement of programs and services to children in our area.

For businesses interested in organizing a child care provider for multiple employees, Gibbs should be the first phone call. “If a business has a systemic employee retention problem rooted in child care, such as a need for after-hour child care, it can be very complex and difficult to set up,” Gibbs said.

For example, if an employer has five employees who all need after-hours child care, she can help find a child care provider to address that need. To develop a solution, Gibbs will need employers to have the following information ready to share, including but not limited to:

  • Affordability: Wwhat can employees afford – will the company subsidize child care?
  • Location: Mile radius – proximity to the employer, is onsite child care at the employer an option?
  • Hours of Operation: Aare second or third shift accommodations needed?
  • Transportation: Is it a barrier to employees?

For individuals or employers searching for child care, check out the list of providers on the Central Resource Center (CNC). They have resources for parents, guardians, and child care providers in the central part of Michigan and will assist families with finding quality, licensed child care. You can also call Gibbs directly for assistance.

For child care providers, the CNC offers training to all licensed providers including aide and relative providers, family homes, group homes, and centers.

Looking ahead, it is clear that COVID-19 has changed child care for families and businesses forever. “Everyone’s doing their best right now to get through this. When it all settles, it won’t look the same,” Gibbs said.

To learn more about setting up child care for employees or finding a provider for your children, call Micki Gibbs at Midland County Great Start Collaborative, Midland County Educational Service Agency, phone (989) 492-7702 x1173.

To learn more about how the MBA is supporting business with workforce challenges, visit mbami.org

READ MORE

Earn $25 gift cards for playing Midland BINGO

By Matt DeVries

You need to run out and grab screws for your new light fixture, so you go to Ace. You take the kids on a mini nature tour and visit The Tridge, Whiting Forest and City Forest. Maybe you’re in the mood for a pepperoni & mushroom so you call up Pizza Baker or Pizza Sams. Why not get rewarded for all that running around?

You’re in luck as we have Midland BINGO running for a limited time! Simply put, we’re rewarding you for supporting local businesses and attractions. The more places you visit, the better your chances are of getting a Bingo!

Here’s how it works:

  • Download the Midland Bingo board
  • Get out and support local businesses! Simply save your receipt from each visit you make to a business on the board.
  • Once you get a Bingo!, bring your receipts* to the front desk of the MBA, 300 Rodd Street. Our receptionist, Angie, will check them and give you a gift card if you are one of the first eight winners!
*Show a photo for the Tridge, City Forest, Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest. Visit the Isabella Bank booth at the Farmers Market for your receipt. Receipts must be dated on October 8 or later to qualify.
Special thanks go out to Jenifer Acosta and Kate Cardinali for coming up with this amazing idea to support local businesses! So what are you waiting for! Get out in your community and collect those receipts before all the gift cards are claimed!
READ MORE

CJ’s Hairstyling reopens in Sanford after seven months

By Matt DeVries

What a whirlwind it has been for Connie and CJ’s Hairstyling. Nearly everything destroyed. Not knowing what the future had in store. But as she says, no matter how much you don’t want one door to close, there’s a blessing waiting on the other side!

As the Midland Daily News showed us, CJ’s Hairstyling is back open after nearly seven months. And we couldn’t be happier for Connie!

CJ’s Hairstyling

309 W Saginaw Rd, Sanford, MI 48657

Facebook

(989) 687-7666

READ MORE