opinion

How COVID Restrictions Are Unleashing New Retail Opportunities

How COVID Restrictions Are Unleashing New Retail Opportunities

One thing about COVID is that we have all gone through each phase of it together, whether we wanted to or not. Watching retail stores combat their way through existence during these tough times has been an eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience. Oh, the things I have learned …

We are much more agile than we think or claim to be. So many rules existed before COVID that just do not apply anymore. It feels different for all of us, but some of these are arbitrary rules that we put into place that in hindsight may have affected us more negatively than positively.

Think about some of the rules or policies you have in your store that may not serve your culture or mission anymore.

We always initially set rules with good intentions, to protect our business and our customers, but also ourselves. It has felt like the absence of these everyday little rules we have in place, the arbitrary boundaries, has freed us to grow and develop where we would have otherwise not explored. Watching businesses experience booming online growth while they remain closed is amazing. Employees are shifting into new or temporary roles to be fluid with business needs as we cope and strategize to get through COVID-impacted retail life. Think about some of the rules or policies you have in your store that may not serve your culture or mission anymore. Giving up rules does not mean losing structure — look at it from a perspective that enables you to reallocate those resources.

Policing policies and enforcing rules takes time and energy and can often result in making people feel devalued. If you have a loss and prevention team leader, enable another employee to lead a team morale program. Try to balance things that feel restrictive with empowering, leadership-creating opportunities in your store or industry place of work. Think about if you were training for the first day as a new employee. If your day were spent learning what “not to do,” it would leave you in a much different mindset than a day spent talking about employee development and growth to achieve business goals. Both scenarios are technically seeking the same result — a better bottom line. How these different approaches improve that bottom line is up to the employees in either scenario. Be the positive change you can be while COVID allows us to spend the time and resources thinking outside the box!

It is a lot of work to convey to people that you are smiling under that mask. I visited a small store this past weekend that reminded me that it is the people and their energy that make the store. This store was clearly low on inventory and did not have any other customers. But the energy made me feel like I was hanging with friends. The music was up, they were so kind about mentioning the rules, and then they just swept you away into their world of good energy and the flow of some normal conversation.

Was it earth-shattering? Honestly a little bit, yes. It was the most familial, VIP-feeling shopping experience that I have experienced in eight months. I did not feel like we could not express our personalities or were restricted by hospital-grade rules. This store had managed to humanize what would have otherwise been an incredibly quiet, awkward shopping experience. I spent a lot of money in a store that did not have a lot of inventory because of the people, not the stuff. It is exhausting to be in sales right now, but just remember that you create your environment. Does it feel like a clinic in your store, or does it feel like a clean, re-organized version of your old favorite? Mandatory signage does not have to take away from store appeal, make it fun and think of it as additional branding opportunities. Try to think from the perspective of a first-time customer and let that guide you and your energy on the sales floor.

In the adult industry, we have so much potential to help people love themselves and their bodies. COVID has made self-love a front-and-center health topic. Our industry and its brick-and-mortar or online sites are better equipped than anyone to be the liaison between people and the tools they need to be the best version of themselves. We have the products and knowledge to create personal confidence, teach much-needed sex education and tips to spice up people's lives, and finally the sales ability to gain a customer’s trust when it comes to vulnerable or sensitive topics. These are a trifecta of attributes for a super-sale and bringing a long-term customer to your store’s VIP list.

Essentially, I am suggesting a focus on creating a retail environment during COVID that reflects positive energy and brings some humanity to an otherwise sterile situation. Sound tough? Nothing is tough if you have the right people around you. That is the most important thing that I have learned during COVID — the right people mean everything. My customers, coworkers, colleagues, “my industry people” mean so much to me. Take some extra time to keep connected with your people; it’s worth the investment.

And finally in a COVID world where you can be anyone behind that mask, be kind.

Danielle Seerley, aka “America’s Sex Toy Sweetheart,” is the senior sales executive for Shibari Wands and Voodoo Toys.

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