COVID-19 Small Business Journal - The Online Only Life
It’s only been a few days since the brick and mortars closed, but it feels like ages. Literally—it’s only been three days since we’ve closed the shops. It’s so surreal to think about how literally just a week ago things seemed pretty normal, and were only just starting to unravel.
It was sort of a slow tumbling as we heard first about school closures—the week coming up was March Break, and then TDSB announced it was closing for the two weeks after that. Grocery shops started packed with lines snaking around buildings, shelves empty, rumours of a toilet paper shortage (yikes). The public libraries in Toronto closed, which really seemed like Armageddon, although of course I had no idea how much more things would change.
Most, if not all of the other small businesses we know have closed, and we know there were various timelines and thought processes for each of them. It is so hard to know what each business is going through—different financial situations, staff, risks, health. There’s a lot of information and misinformation and unknown out there, and small businesses are navigating this very fluid situation, making decisions that impact a few or more people in very significant ways, while also trying their best to communicate to their customers and communities in a way that’s both optimistic and not completely desperate/unhinged. Or maybe that’s just us.
And now it’s sort of bananas out there. Shops are closed and dark even in broad daylight, and we’ve been watching as other small businesses are sharing what they’re doing and why and how. Restaurants and the food and service industries are one of the hardest hit, and while we’re trying our best to support the ones in our neighbourhoods, we’re also walking a very tight line ourselves.
I know for us having an already established online website and shipping process is something we’re not taking for granted, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We’re focusing on what we can do right now.
In some ways it’s been nice (“nice”?) to have something to focus our energy on: taking phone orders, having the live chat going, channeling all of our resources in moving online orders through the processing queue and then out the door, and then also working on the website, managing inventory, launching new products, making vague and small and completely unfounded plans for the next few days and weeks. Contemplating small changes, adjustments, pivoting, tweaks in what were our previous plans in our new situation.
We’re currently trying to spread out our staffing in the wisest way we can, reducing hours to try and keep us all whole in the long term. We’re operating seven days a week and taking things a day at a time. Sometimes it feels like we’re going to be able to ride it out, and then we read an article saying the self-isolation restrictions are going to be on for six months.
It seems like there are measures coming down from Ottawa, and we’re mainly anxious to see if we can last out into this new normal and then keep it. Delays in paying taxes are short term bridges; loans, low-interest or otherwise, even more so. Everything’s going to be called in eventually (if this isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is), and I would hate to dig ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole that we can’t get out of.
We’re circling the wagons, trimming the fat to the bone in the meantime. Most of the measures seem to take effect over the next couple of weeks, and we’re hoping there’s enough coming in to keep afloat. Justin! We need you.