Guest Blog by Sally Bee-Adapting to the new ‘normal’

April 30, 2020 0 By Phil Gee
Guest Blog by Sally Bee-Adapting to the new ‘normal’

Continuing my guest blog spot, today’s contribution is by the amazing Sally Bee, who did High Street retail buying for many years, before opening her lovely gift shop in Birkdale Village. Sally has used the current situation to reshape her business, to enable her to continue trading, albeit in a completely different way to ‘the normal’! Read her really interesting post below.

Adapting to the new “normal “.

Isn’t it amazing how all of our lives change in such a short space of time? How surprising is it that We have adapted so quickly? Across the world, We have all had to adopt a new “normal”.

This blog is about shifting my small business in the current environment. Purposely, I am not talking about the financial, family, and health impacts of COVID -19. This is about My reaction to the sudden impact of the virus on my precious small business.

The Beginning!

Remember the beginning of March, when people started stockpiling food and panicking buying all sorts of random products? My business shuddered to a halt! Understandably, People’s priorities suddenly shifted and luxury gifts, homeware, and cards were not on top of the list!

Unfortunately, it should have been a peak time for us with Mother’s Day on the horizon. The beautiful stock and cards were in place ready for our traditional peak ( the first one post-Christmas). I could feel the change coming. Myself & My beloved Bee Team clawed our way to Mother’s day Saturday. For me, the worst part of those few weeks was uncertainty. We knew we were going to be closing but not knowing when it was difficult. I took the decision, in the end, to close on my own terms. For the safety of my team and customers, I closed on the Saturday before lockdown. Strangely, I felt better for making the decision myself. As it happened I would have been forced to close by Monday!

The first few surreal weeks!

The first few weeks after lockdown I felt bereft. I did very little on the business a few internet orders, a bit of half-hearted social media, cleaned my house, and hibernated! Since then I have learned, from a life coach, on a business zoom meeting set up by another small business, that this reaction is absolutely normal its all part of the change curve.

Week Two I did some charity bits helping Southport hospital nurses with sympathy cards ( My suppliers were amazingly generous ). I decided to give my shop windows over to the local children. They have been drawing thank you pictures to The Nhs and key workers. The pictures are delightful and it’s heartwarming when you pop in & find them on the mat.

Plan Bee Starts to evolve.

Week Three My mojo returned and my creative head was back on and I developed Plan Bee. A light bulb moment, I already was trading from a website – something that was already established and just needed tweaking for the new trading conditions! I might not be physically connecting with my instore customers but I had the tools to virtually connect!

Shop & Drop

Firstly I started properly re-engaging with my customers via social media in a structured way. I promoted my website offering free delivery on all orders. Launched my all-new “Shop and Drop” service. Customers order online & if local I drop to their door on my daily walk. Customers love this and so do I! It’s growing by the week. It was a slow burn but its increasing. People are realizing they need gifts, treats, and homeware.

It’s safe as I work alone. My beloved Bee team is in hibernation! The feedback has been great and I even have customers on their third and fourth orders! I really feel people want to support small businesses and shop local too!

Virtual Personal Shopping Service

Part two of Plan Bee evolved as my “Virtual Personal Shopping Experience”. My USP is my in-store customer service, helping customers select their gifts – NOT SELLING – assisting. It’s almost impossible to replicate that via the website.

The new service is simple, Message me with who you are buying for, occasion, and budget and I will send you suggestions via email, facetime, or telephone – whichever you prefer. Once selected I will wrap and deliver free of charge.

There has been fantastic feedback on this service. A quote from a customer – Susan Gaffney “Thank you for selecting the perfect gifts. My Daughter was delighted – In fact I think it’s possibly the best reaction to my gifts in years!”

Greeting Card Bundles Launch

This week I have launched Greetings Card bundles – people want to send cards but obviously didn’t expect to be on lockdown for so long. Supermarkets aren’t the best at card selections and when you are food shopping buying a card isn’t at the top of your list!

BEE BUNDLES are any 5 cards for £20 or any 10 cards for £30 – delivered to your door for free. These have been amazing!

Next Steps

Plan Bee, I have delivered part one – I am working on part two, three & four. The next challenges are when will We be able to reopen? What will instore shopping look like to enable us to trade safely?

How do we secure the right stock and receive deliveries (most of our suppliers are closed or production has been suspended)?

What will the future buying cycle look like for 2020 and 2021 – all of the trade shows have been canceled – so we will have to adapt our ways of working.

The Future

The landscape is changing and the economic future is uncertain. It’s scary, it’s difficult but it is a time of reflection. A time to re-evaluate My business and priorities. A lot of the plans I have put in place aren’t necessarily making money – it’s primarily to keep engagement with My customers.

I believe you can’t sit back and wait – you can’t simply reopen and expect everyone to come rushing back – it’s crucial – in my opinion, to put the hard work in now. I think at Sally Bee’s I will continue to evolve over the next 18 months.

Visit Sally’s website here