31 March 2020

A significant number of businesses in the retail, hospitality and services sectors have had to close their shops or restaurants in response to coronavirus; but one positive initiative is emerging. Companies are working together to remain in business. While some won’t be able to adapt their business model in the short term, for those that can there is an opportunity to make the most of the situation and continue to serve your customers and local community. Close Brothers looks at four ways businesses can work together to get through this difficult period.

Identify the demand: Whether you are a local restaurant, a DIY shop, or a multi-national supermarket chain, understanding what your customers need most right now can help you to decide what to do next. As people are being encouraged to stay at home and only go outside when absolutely necessary, delivering food or supplies to people’s doors has become crucial. Talk to similar businesses in your area and see if they would be interested in working together to do home deliveries. If so you could agree to share deliveries on a daily rota or each cover individual areas. Deliveroo was the first food delivery service to announce that they would offer contactless deliveries, with payments able to be taken over the phone and food being left on the doorstep.

Optimise staff where possible: If you’re a business in a fortunate position and the ability to keep your staff, focus their time on thinking about the future and how you can look ahead and position your business in the long term. Maybe this period has helped you to finally spend time focusing on your digital and social media marketing or helped you to identify a new customer base? Getting your name out there and doing great things to help the community at a time like this will only help you when life goes back to normal.

Share supply lines: Last week it was announced that the government has relaxed competition regulations to allow retailers to work together to keep shops open, continue to deliver to customers and use the same supply lines to improve stock levels. In local areas it may be that you use similar suppliers. Talk to businesses like yours and see if you can help each other out with any shortages. Sharing supplies at times like these can help to minimise waste of fresh produce and ensures customers can continue to access the products they need. A consortium of UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses, including Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, Rolls-Royce and Siemens for example are working together to produce more than 10,000 ventilators for UK hospitals. The sharing of ideas and supplies here is helping to produce the vital equipment that the NHS needs (1).

Spread the word: Social media is a simple and cost-effective way to communicate with your customers and remind them who you are. Having an up to date Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account can help your business show customers what you are doing and make them aware of any changes to business hours or additional services you might be offering. Regional newspapers, working in collaboration with InYourArea, are offering support to small businesses across the UK by launching a tool to tell consumers who is offering deliveries in each postcode area. With people likely relying on social media to find out what’s going on, advertising what you’re doing to help the local community creates positive name recognition and also helps customers to find you in the future.

Working together has always been important but now more than ever collaboration can help businesses to get through an increasingly difficult period and come out stronger the other side.

(1) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52087002

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