TAKING TIME OUT FOR A PANDEMIC THIS YEAR CONTINUES TO BRING NEW BEGINNINGS TO OUR INDUSTRY— AND ENDINGS. When the year began, many of us celebrated. We may have taken time to reflect on the past year and our performance related to both failures and accomplishments. For some reason, we tend to view the first of January with a renewed sense of commitment to our future selves. As the year progressed, we discovered life might not be unfolding the way we hoped. While pondering global issues is great for an evening of pontification on Facebook, it’s far from what each of us has endured over the past few months. I don’t believe any of us could have predicted or even imagined these unusual circumstances. As of this writing, Yelp disclosed that, as of the end of August, over 160,000 businesses indicated they’ve closed. That was down from the 180,000 that closed at the very beginning of the pandemic. This represents a 23 percent increase in the number of closures since mid-July. In addition to monitoring closed businesses, Yelp also considers the businesses whose closures have become permanent. That number has steadily increased throughout the past six months, reaching nearly 100,000, representing 60 percent of closed businesses that won’t be reopening.
additional income from stimulus-related unemployment benefits. While that has since dried up, the increase in sales have not. In fact, they continue to increase despite industry shortages, continued restrictions and unemployment numbers. It seems that our industry continues to benefit partially from pent-up demand and from an influx of new customers who are spending on vehicle technology rather than concerts or theme parks. And with reduced air travel, people are upgrading for family road trips.
UNTIL WE ARE ALL ABLE TO MEET ONCE AGAIN FACE-TO-FACE, I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE TIME TO ATTEND AS MANY WEBINARS AS YOU ARE ABLE. ALSO, TAKE THE TIME TO PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL SOMEONE AND ENCOURAGE THEM. There have also been other new beginnings. New terms have entered our conversation: social distancing, flattening the curve and community spread. None of them should appear on your favorites list. In addition, we have learned to Zoom, or use video conferencing and webinars, instead of meeting face-to-face. This new trend is being used to attend schools, have government meetings, and for our industry, provide continuing education.
We have also witnessed businesses scaling back, filing for bankruptcy protection, and closing for good on a scale that few have seen before. Names like Brooks Brothers, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, JC Penny and Hertz, to name a few, have all filed for bankruptcy protection. Regardless of who you are, chances are that scaling back and business closures have affected you in some way. I am thankful that very few in our industry have had to close. The reports we received revealed a handful of specialty retailers that haven’t made it through the pandemic.
This shift in socialization has allowed our industry to stay connected despite having to miss events like KnowledgeFest, SEMA and even CES. On a more regional level, some distributors have used Zoom-like technologies to host events with good success. I have personally spoken as a panelist, keynote and presenter at countless events. I can tell you firsthand that while I appreciate the opportunities, I truly miss the face-to-face presentations which allow greater interaction with the audience. But for now, I am thankful for every opportunity to connect with other industry professionals regardless of the challenges that webinars present.
However, in the midst of tragedy, our industry has flourished. Many businesses had to temporarily close at the beginning of the pandemic. Some were able to operate as essential businesses, but with limited opportunity since many potential customers were staying home. But the vast majority reported that once they’d reopened, business not only went up, but way up. Many attributed this initially to stimulus checks and
Until we are all able to meet once again face-to-face, I challenge you to take the time to attend as many webinars as you are able. Also, take the time to pick up the phone and call someone and encourage them. As you do, you will find that all of us have a story and all of us have learned lessons that will be part of some great conversations when we all can meet again. Until then, stay safe and healthy!
6 September/October 2020