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ServiceChannel: Big problems face retailers in re-openings

Al Urbanski
Tom Buiocchi
ServiceChannel CEO Tom Buiocchi

Nail salons and barber shops have been given the approval to re-open in Georgia and Simon Property Group will be opening 49 malls and outlets the first week of May. That’s good news for retailers and restaurants dying to get back in business, but opening during the COVID-19 pandemic poses special problems. 

“Think about it,” says Tom Buiocchi, CEO of ServiceChannel, a digital hook-up for retailers hiring local contractors and service providers. “In normal times, fast-growing chains might increase their store totals by 10% a year. But in this situation, all brands will be re-opening 100% of their stores in a few weeks.”

Aside from grocers and drug stores, retailers have furloughed or laid off experienced staffers, many of whom may have moved on to other jobs. Meanwhile, many service providers have been forced to close their businesses during the shutdown.

“There’s too much work going on and not enough workers. Janitorial service contractors are incredibly busy during this health crisis and are very hard to hire,” Buiocchi said. “In the ServiceChannel system, we have seen a dramatic increase in declined work orders.”

As states and municipalities begin re-opening businesses, they are sure to enact scores of different rules and regulations. Retailers will struggle to establish standard procedures and prepare work crews to implement them.

“No one’s ever had to re-start their businesses on this scale before and they’re not going to have checklists. Are social distancing requirements in Texas going to be the same as in Georgia?” wondered the ServiceChannel chief.

Big changes have long been in the cards for the retail industry, but many industry observers are of the opinion that the coronavirus shutdown will quicken the process. Buiocchi is one of them.

“If you’re weak now, you’re going to have a hard time surviving,” he observed. “It’s going to be hard for brands that are burdened by debt, whose concepts are wrong, and who are directly affected by e-commerce and don’t have a plan.”

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