Ingenuity Is The Answer

May 21, 2020

Research any country in the world today and the results will most likely be the down, high unemployment, stay-at-home orders (or just lifted), and bleak economic outlook. Add to this picture long-established businesses closing, bankruptcy filings, COVID19 cases, and, unfortunately, deaths. If we only had a crystal ball to forecast the future, plans could be made more easily. Of course, no such crystal ball exists.

Plunge of Retail Sales

On May 15th the U.S. Commerce Department reported that overall retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April. This is nearly double from the February to March decline of 8.3%. Although most states are starting to reopen to some degree, business will be far from what was normal just three or six months ago. Overall, retail sales are down 21.6% for the past twelve months, which is the largest decline dating back to 1992.

Monthly decreases were:

  • 79% Clothing stores
  • 60% Electronics and appliance stores
  • 59% Furniture stores
  • 30% Restaurants
  • 29% Department stores
  • 13% Auto dealers
  • 13% Grocery stores

Although these figures are for the U.S. only, they are probably typical of retail sales in other parts of the world...of course, some sectors might fare better or worse than their U.S. counterparts.

As one would guess, online sales increased 21.6% measured year-over-year. JPMorgan Chase also reported that credit card purchases on necessities such as groceries, fuel, phone service, and auto repairs declined 20% on a year-over-year basis but spending on items considered non-essential such as meals out, airfare, and personal services (salons or yoga classes as examples) plummeted by 50%.

Business As Usual 

Business as usual will no longer lead to success that might have been the case in the past. Business is different today and will be different tomorrow. No one knows for sure when various economies around the world will recover. Some predictions see recovery at the end of 2020 while other predictions are into 2021 or even the end of 2021. Regardless of an exact date for “recovery,” business as we knew it months ago will probably never be the same.

For some people, of course, it’s back to normal. However, spending, lifestyles, and being more safety and health conscious have changed for many others. As personal patterns change, there will be both positive and negative effects for individual businesses that must, therefore, adapt to changing spending habits.

Ingenuity Is Key

A general definition of ingenuity is the quality of being clever, original, and inventive. This is a key to business success during this global pandemic now and after it subsides. Since business will never quite be the same, business owners must figure out how to reshape their businesses in order to survive, prosper, and grow into sustainable businesses.

Although many businesses are similar by offering essentially the same products or services, this is the time for ingenuity and uniqueness. If there is nothing unique about a business, then owners must develop something unique about the business in order to outperform the competition. If operations and marketing are the same as other businesses, then operations and marketing must be changed. 

There is not one formula that fits all businesses during these challenging times. Whether a business is in the retail, service, professional, or manufacturing sector, some type of their operations will most likely need to be changed. Whether you’re a consultant working with a client or a business owner making decisions on your own, some aspect of ingenuity must be injected into the business. Perhaps, it’s online selling, extended payment plans, expanded personal service, limited or increased product or service offerings, discounts, liberal return policies, different forms of marketing, value-added services, extended warranties, Zoom calls, or even business acquisitions and/or mergers. The list is unlimited of what any individual business can do.

If there was one right answer, then every business would do the same thing and no business would be unique as compared to its competition. Business does not work this way, however. Success will go to the business that sees something different in its future.

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