Retail Environment 2020

Posted by: Jeff Brandenburg | Thursday April 9, 2020

As we near our busiest time of the year in preparations to help our valued customers stock their retail stores, tents, and stands for the long-awaited Saturday, July 4th, we also enter one of the most challenging times our industry has faced. The lack of production in China over several long months due to recent shutdowns over explosions and related deaths, to the peak of COVID-19 halting most of the supply chain, we find ourselves deep within uncharted waters. This has and will continue, to lead to a supply shortage of fireworks in the U.S. for 2020. As of this writing, we are yet to see the true effects of COVID-19 on our business for the immediate summer season.

At present, we are seeing many restaurants and bars being mandated to shut down operations across the country. Furthermore, we continue to see several other businesses cut hours, staff, and drastically limit their methods of operation. This will likely continue to get worse, over the next few weeks as COVID-19 peaks. As we saw in China, and in other regions such as Italy, these types of efforts and attention to social distancing are working to reduce the number of new cases. We must all work together and do our part.

COVID-19 certainly brings many new challenges to operating your business. What can you do as a retailer to navigate this season? I’d start by saying let’s remain hopeful there are no “official” restrictions placed on your business as we arrive to late June and through the 4th of July. From there I’d offer up some alternative and creative ways to service your customers as you plan for the changing retail landscape over the coming weeks. Here are some ways retailers are working to stay operational and retain the confidence in their customers to continue shopping and buying their products:

  •  Online ordering for in-store or curbside pickup
  •  Phone-in orders for in-store or curbside pickup
  •  Customized video shopping experience (employees shop the store with the customer via video chat)
  •  Delivery service (typically offered within a limited radius of retail location with a minimum order requirement)

As we all know, the fireworks industry is heavily regulated. As such, please be certain you have checked with all necessary federal, state and local authorities having jurisdiction as you consider any of the above options. You must ensure that you are fully compliant and adhering to all rules and regulations.

If you have the means to contact your customer base to inform them of your retail hours and intended operational adjustments, and any new service offerings, you should consider doing so. Getting the word out on your website and social media outlets is key. Another very effective way to update your customers is via direct email and text campaigns. If you have utilized point-of-sales (POS) equipment and have been capturing your customers’ emails and/or cell phone numbers, this is an excellent way to stay in communication with your customer base and update them as you navigate through these changing times.

If you have not used a POS system in the past or have used one but have not gathered your customers' email or cell phone numbers, you should consider the value in adding POS equipment to your retail venue. There are many POS options out there that can help. Feel free to contact us if you would like to hear about some of the top POS equipment and software options that have worked well for our customers.

Many fireworks retailers sign “seasonal” or “temporary” lease or license agreements with various landlords for retail vacancies, parking lots or land to sell their products from. You should consider adding some language, or an addendum, to your agreements that protect you in the event you are unable to open for any period due to certain governmental restrictions placed upon you with this ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s always a good idea, in any given season, to incorporate language within your agreements that allow for refunds of some sort in the event your sales become restricted or prohibited for reasons such as a drought, failure to obtain all your necessary licenses or permits, or other types of unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances. Maybe consider paying only a smaller nonrefundable deposit upon lease execution, another payment closer to the peak selling period, say around June 15th, with the balance by July 10th. Although not all landlords will agree to all-the-above, it’s a starting point for negotiations, and will likely lead to you having a few more options to limit your liability during tough times.

Although there will be a shortage of various fireworks in 2020, NCI is still well-stocked, and will likely have a good alternative product to offer you on out-of-stock items. We have been and will continue receiving import containers from our China partners, and many of those are set to arrive in May and June. Although this is not what we want, it’s the reality we must accept. We will work hard to facilitate all we can during this time to ensure our valued customers are supplied with all we are able to provide in 2020!

What can you do to put yourself in the best position during the shortage? The best thing you can do is get your orders submitted to us ASAP and take what we have available, now. From there we can work together over the weeks ahead to communicate what we should be able to supply on the balance of your order, likely when we expect to receive it, and offer good alternatives for items we will not receive in time for this July 4th. This is not a typical fireworks season, on many levels, so we must all understand that we cannot operate as we typically have in past seasons.

We are in this together and the entire team here at NCI “fully” committed to doing what we can to ensure your shelves are stocked!

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.“

~ Albert Einstein

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

~ Robert Schuller

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