Back in the fall of 2019, we had just settled in after moving our small yarn shop to a cute Main Street location. The tourist season in our town is booming in the late summer and early fall. There are tour buses regularly stopping for lunch and shopping. Our cash flow had jumped just by changing locations. I thought we were set for growth for a long time.
And then. .. There were vague rumblings of a new virus spreading fast. Crazy scary reports on all sides filled the news streams and social media. Like most of the world and especially our local area, I didn’t have the slightest idea what would happen next. We were not under a mandate to close, but on March 16, 2020, I locked myself in the shop and tried to come up with a game plan. This shop was a dream manifested. It was a community for our regulars. It was not closing.
I had taken a community class about selling online including sales on Amazon, EBay, Etsy and a shop website a few months earlier. It hadn’t been urgent at the time to get that going but it became urgent on March 16th of that year. I spent 3-4 days putting everything I possibly could on an online platform. Some items were cross posted to see where they fit best for consumers. My work wasn’t polished at that time. It just got done.
Orders started coming in. My post office person gave me feedback on packaging, labels and rates. She was super busy because almost every other small shop in town was doing the exact same thing. We didn’t collaborate with each other. We just understood that our downtown group of small shops were going to collapse if drastic action didn’t happen. For months my husband helped me ship out up to 70 packages per day to places all over the country.
I kept this routine up for a long time. I packed up the orders and closed the shop after they were picked up for the day. We added FaceTime shopping for the locals eventually. I would package their items up and send orders out the back door every day along with our postal shipments.
Fast forward two and a half years. We are just now getting back to having a normal shop with a class schedule and events. We still send out over 125 orders per week. We’ve added subscription boxes to our product mix. Our customers are returning slowly. We are not at the same level we were before. I am resigned that we may never get back there. Shopping habits have changed. So what did I learn? What can I do with this to move forward and grow?
1. Change is constant. Be ready to make a change quickly. Always be learning. You never know what skills the next change will require you to have. And things are not going back to the way they were.
2. Done is better than perfect. I don’t love my website. Fees for some platforms are high. Postage is difficult to master. But in my mind, each package is a customer that purchased from my shop. We are still here.
3. Take on challenges and handle them the best way you can right now. The government didn’t know what to do to keep my shop alive. The city didn’t know what to do to keep my shop alive. It was my job to make sure those decisions were made quickly and follow through with a solid plan. No one else is going to do it.
Going forward I hope that the pandemic is the only truly big event we weather. It was tough. The shop has been permanently changed by it. But our sales are stronger now. We have seven different revenue sources flowing into the shop. Our social media is strong. We have more in person regulars to the shop. It was not all bad.