The Direct Market comic book retail trade organization ComicsPRO has shared 14 tips for retailers on how to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.
Here it is, shared with their permission:
The recent COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has and will continue to affect our businesses in the foreseeable future. Here’s 14 ideas on how to weather the outbreak. (Please throw out your own ideas if you have any!).
1. Don’t panic. It’s important that you remain professional throughout all of this.
2. Communicate with your staff and customers about what you are doing to make sure that they are safe. And also to hear what they are concerned about. Things you could mention are:
a. Extra cleaning. Eg “We are wiping down and disinfecting, with more frequency, counters, cash registers, computers, the credit card machine, door handles, tables, chairs, and surfaces in the bathroom. (Basically, anything that customers and staff usually touch when they are in the store).
b. Employees are washing their hands frequently. (Some stores told us that they are providing gloves for employees to handle cash).
c. Clorox Wipes. “Clorox Wipes are stationed all around the store for customers to use to disinfect anything that they want. So if you sit down at a table to play a game, and want to give yourself added protection, grab a wipe!”
d. Call ahead, curbside pickup. Let customers know that they can do this if they don't want to come into the store.
e. Link to reputable online resources. Here's something from the Red Cross for example that tells people how to stay safe.
f. Managing Store Flow. Telling customers that might be afraid of crowds to come in on Mondays and Tuesdays when there is less traffic.
g. Schedule Changes. If you have to close one or two days a week, let customers know.
h. If you are going full steam ahead, let customers know that as well. “We expect to be open regular hours - open seven days a week - for you to continue to enjoy your comic and gaming hobbies. We want to make sure that you have continual access to things that bring you joy!”
i. Two way communication. Ears open, listen to customers. If customers can’t come in, how can we get your product to you? If you can’t afford your books, let us know sooner rather than later.
j. Reminders! Remind customers how to contact you and your staff. Remind customers how to pay for things online. Etc.
3. Start bulking up mail orders, ebay and amazon sales, Facebook Live Sales … basically anything that helps you sell additional product outside of your store.
4. Cash Flow is King! Make sure you have a line of credit to handle any downturns.
5. Be proactive on discussing with vendors your financial situation. If you are having trouble paying them, let them know! Maybe you can work something out.
6. Use the downturn (or isolation) to get to your store bucket list: clean this, price those boxes that have sat forever, fix that thing, make that other thing. Do all the stuff that will help when the boat is righted
7. Watch your ordering! Make sure that you aren’t overordering.
8. Take to social media as a voice of fun, calm, and normalcy. Bring your role as safe third space to your customers. They need it too.
9. Check your insurance to see if you have business interruption insurance. Check to see if it covers this type of situation? Also call your agent to verify and discuss options. If you are having an employee deliver product to people’s houses, make sure that your insurance covers that!
10. Share ideas with other retailers! And keep connected with other industry insiders on various Forums. Let's help each other get through this.
11. Positivity on the floor for all staff members, open door so employees can vent/share fears frustrations.
12. Hold off on major purchases, if practical.
13. Challenge your customers! ComicsPRO Director Joe Murray of Captain Blue Hen created the Thousand Comic Challenge. “If customers are at home we encourage them to catch up on their books and see if we can’t get our customers to collectively read at least a thousand comics. If we get multiple stores to do it it can become a smack talk/ bragging rights competition between stores”.
If you are interested in participating, use this hashtag: #ThousandComicChallenge
And you can listen to Joe Murray's post here: https://www.facebook.com/CaptainBlueHen/videos/135591261197416
Or use Jen King's words:
"If you find yourself blessed with extra time to read extra comics this month, we have a challenge for you: We, and other comic shops around the world are doing a fun challenge called #ThousandComicChallenge. Read a comic and post a rating one to five stars and a short 2-5 word review with the hash tag above and tag us in the post. We want to get to a thousand books and bring the focus to artists and creators, so tag them as well. This is a friendly contest amongst us fun loving retailers, so let’s see who’s customers read the most books. Brilliant positive idea by Captain Blue Hen Comics Joe Murray" .