HFA’s president: ‘Now more than ever we need each other’

These are extraordinary times in our nation’s history. The world is dealing with the coronavirus, an infinitesimally small player with an unprecedented amount of influence on the world economy. The virus, our bear market and a sudden drop in oil prices, have conspired to accomplish what neither September 11 nor the Great Recession could do. It’s created a nationwide de facto shutdown. Public events are canceled. Businesses are shortening their hours or temporarily closing — by choice or by order. It’s not a bleak dystopian movie, rather the reality of living in 2020. But, is it all doom and gloom? Is there any good news?

The current challenges we face seem overwhelming, but they give us an opportunity to put things into perspective. For example, 98 percent or more of those infected are expected to recover. And this week, a possible vaccine, once thought to be a year or more away, is already being tested on humans. On the economic front, the stock market will bounce back (quicker than you think) and if we do go into a recession, it will be a short one.

So let’s focus on the positive and the things we can control. Retailers are using this time to remodel their stores, reevaluate their employees, and strengthen their online presence. All those families staying and entertaining at home will be eating off our tables, watching TV on our sofas, and sleeping on our beds. That sounds like an incredible opportunity for us.

Take advantage of the increase in online shopping. Instead of pulling back, find ways to build market share (I know several retailers are increasing their online advertising). Let’s not forget the communities we serve either. Retailers are organizing food drives and other charitable activities in their stores for those who have been affected the most. Eventually, people will want to go out and enjoy the simple pleasures some of us perhaps took for granted. Movies, restaurants, a concert in the park, and so many others. And, of course, shopping.

Store traffic will increase again. Everything will find its balance again. But first, patience.

And perspective. Remember, you are not alone. Every retailer, every store is going through the same challenges. The advantage that you have, over most others, is that you are a member of the HFA. Now more than ever we need each other.

Your association continues to look for ways to help you manage the challenges ahead. The HFA’s web page has the latest information from Washington and your state where decisions are being made that impact your business. You’ll also find stories about members just like you who are sharing how COVID-19 is changing the way they do business, lessons they’ve learned from past crises and what lies ahead. It goes without saying this is not how we hoped to celebrate the HFA’s centennial anniversary. But if the past 100 years taught us anything, it’s that through good times and bad, there’s strength in numbers. HFA members will get through this together.

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Here’s what your business needs to know about the COVID-19 outbreak.