Today California and Pennsylvania implemented a complete shutdown of activity for non-life-sustaining businesses, with the number of states under similar orders set to rise over the weekend, including Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York. This places enormous strain on everyone, and is a serious challenge for comics stores and industry businesses. Below are some tips on navigating these orders responsibly. We’ve also provided some resources on how you can use the downtime to jumpstart your recovery process.
1. Fully Comply With Official Orders
Public officials are putting these orders in place to maintain everyone’s health and safety. While they place an enormous strain on businesses and individuals, not complying puts you, your employees, and your customers at risk. In some cases, such as in Pennsylvania, non-compliance could also make your store ineligible from receiving grants, loans and other aid. Don’t risk the public health or your ability to collect aid – if you’re ordered to close, you need to close.
2. Adapt Your Business, But Don’t Look For Loopholes
Orders differ from state to state about what kind of businesses can be open, and what kind of activities they can perform if they are open. In Pennsylvania and California the guidance is clear that bookstore, magazine, and hobby businesses are supposed to close.
Some have asked why restaurant take out is different from offering curbside pick-up for comics? It’s because states are trying to reduce the potential for interactions that could spread infection. Not everyone has access to a space to store and prepare food, especially vulnerable populations. It’s important to maintain access to life-sustaining items like food and medicine, which is why those industries are allowed to remain open under new safety measures.
Pennsylvania is permitting “non-store retailers,” defined as “electronic shopping and mail order houses” to remain open if appropriate social distancing measures are in place. For retailers in Pennsylvania and other states, focusing on reaching out to your customers and encouraging them to work with you as you temporarily shift to a mail-order dynamic may help mitigate the immediate strain and promote continuity.
California’s guidance is more open-ended, but retailers should err on the side of greatest safety and caution. If your store isn’t on the list of businesses explicitly allowed to be open, then you must close.
3. Use The Downtime To Apply For Aid
When everybody in your state is under the same shutdown order, the amount of sales generated will be minuscule in comparison to the potential aid that will be made available by government and non-government bodies. This is a good time to begin preparing your claim for SBA disaster assistance, asking your landlord and utilities to work out disaster payment arrangements, and looking into the aid resources being rolled out on the state and private levels to support businesses in your situation. Here are a few tools to get you started :
- Contact your landlord and ask for rent relief. Here is a template letter that you can use for written communication or as a phone script for this purpose. Here is a CNBC article with additional advice.
- Most public utilities, phone and internet companies, are providing deferred billing and other measures to support communities during the crisis. This USA Today article outlines what major companies are doing. Find out what your providers are doing and factor that into your expense management strategy.
- Proactively reach out to your lenders and account holders to make them aware of your situation and find out what plans they can provide to slow, suspend or reduce your obligations during the crisis.
- Apply for U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Relief Loans: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19
- How to Apply For SBA Disaster Relief Explainer (Zenefits)
- Fact Sheet (Washington State)
- Economic Injury Worksheets to help you apply for your loan:
- Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation & the Forge Fund: Could potentially offer comics retailers, booksellers, and their employees support during the coronavirus outbreak; fill out Binc’s new expedited COVID-19 application form.
- Tax Relief Resources: Avalara.com created this comprehensive round up of state and federal tax relief resources with links and detailed guidance. Read it here.
- CBLDF Resources for Comic Industry Businesses Affected by Coronavirus: This comprehensive state-by-state resource is being updated daily, and currently contains links for financial aid resources in every state that has made aid available, and other important resources to help you survive the crisis. Read it here.
4. Use The Downtime to Connect With Customers & Adapt to e-Commerce
This is a terrible situation for everybody, where the best tonic is community. Find ways to reach out to your customers and stay in touch. This can be a Facebook group, a Discord channel, or even the telephone. This is a time to focus on strengthening the personal bonds you have with your customers. Keep them informed of your situation, how they can help you, and how you can help them.
If you have an e-commerce site, promote it. Offering free or inexpensive shipping or home delivery may still be options even when curbside pickup is not.
If you don’t have an e-commerce site, there are several options to set one up quickly. ComicHub has waived its installation fee and reduced its cost for CBLDF and ComicsPRO members. American Booksellers Association offers an e-commerce platform for its members that is available free through May 31 that will get you up and running within a few days. Alternatively, bookstores can sign up as an affiliate and sell through Bookshop.
CBLDF is promoting the efforts of our retailer members here. Please share your information with us, and we’ll amplify your message. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to add your update to our resource.
5. Use the Downtime To Seek Resources & Training
Everybody is affected by this crisis, and many smart people at good organizations are providing free tools to help. This is a good time to spend exploring what ideas are out there to help you and your peers come through the emergency.
We also like these leadership resources:
Business Survival Tips During A Pandemic
This Business Oregon resource by Tom Schnell offers excellent guidance for crisis planning, including cash flow, insurance, and staffing, with additional resource links. A must read for all businesses.
Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis
This Harvard Business Review article provides best practice fundamentals for all businesses weathering the crisis.
Tough Times Demand Smart Actions
This article from the American Booksellers Association provides fundamentals for reducing expenses and managing challenges during a crisis.
SDBC Michigan Crisis Management Webinars
These webinars provide guidance around common hurdles affecting businesses during the crisis.
- Navigating the Cash Flow Crunch – Watch On Demand
- eCommerce During COVID-19 – Friday, March 20 at 11 AM
- Navigating the Cash Flow Crunch – Monday, March 23 at 12 PM
- Human Resources Management During COVID-19 – Tuesday, March 24 at 12 PM
Covid-19: Implications For Business
This report by McKinsey & Company analyzes the near and long-term macro impacts of coronavirus on the business climate.
National Federation of Independent Businesses
Useful reports, studies, and webinars providing guidance for independent businesses to respond to the crisis.
This is a very difficult time, and our hearts go out to everyone who has to suffer the uncertainty and pain happening right now. But don’t risk your health, safety and store – following official guidance and using the time to prepare your aid applications is very likely the very best bet for today.
We’re going to get through this, together.