Coming equipped as a business during the coronavirus crisis - opinion

A business consultant from Lahav, a manager from Bank Hapoalim and two owners of office supply stores explain how to cope with the financial crisis – and even emerge from it stronger.

Bank Hapoalim (photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
Bank Hapoalim
(photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
How having parents and children sitting at home has changed the sales picture • Why you should think twice before opening a showroom in the current climate • And the free online marketing course that will help you prepare for the international days of sales that are just around the corner •

Israel Mizrahi

More Cautious When Purchasing Stock
“My father and my mother, Sammy and Rivka Mizrahi, opened the store in 1970, and I took the reins ten years later, when I completed my military service. We started with a small shop in Kikar HaMeyasdim in Rishon Lezion, and in 1997 I opened a second store that stretches over two floors of 200m2 in Meirovich St. We work with dozens of schools and libraries and sell textbooks, fiction books, books for borrowing, workbooks, sketchbooks and even office equipment—from office chairs to computer accessories—and our model is based on our longstanding relationships and the personal touch we offer our customers.
“The coronavirus caught us in a good place, with eight employees, some of them full-time. When the first lockdown started, I furloughed all of them bar two who kept working with me, as I had a ‘critical business’ permit. We continued to receive customers in accordance with the purple badge guidelines, and at the same time we opened a delivery line for private customers, for the first time in the history of our business. When the first lockdown ended, we started preparing for the back-to-school season, albeit this year much more cautiously. We ordered 40% less stock and managed to sell it all, plus additional sales.
“The second lockdown was a strange time. I sold twice as many workbooks as usual, because children were sitting at home and going crazy with boredom. We also sold twice as many printer cartridges as we have in the past, because people were sitting at home and printing more. I’m an optimist who’s willing to find the positives even in something like the coronavirus. For example, the delivery network that I never had before, the fact that I have examined our charging processes and that we have brought in new products that are adapted to the times. For example, I have sold more puzzles recently than in the last 20 years combined.”
The writer is the owner of “Rivka Marketing and Book Distribution”
13 Meirovich St, Rishon Lezion. Tel: 050-3706027
Israel MizrahiIsrael Mizrahi
Eli Rabina
I Received Orders and Delivered Them to Customers Myself
“I set up the business in 1991, and since then we have expanded and grown to become a Ltd. company. The majority of our business is office furniture and equipment—writing implements, office machines, computer accessories and even cleaning products and kosher food for offices. In short, we provide everything needed to run a business. In recent years we have also imported furniture and writing implements from abroad. Before the coronavirus came along, I was employing ten people and everything was ticking along nicely. I started to notice a decline in the number of customers back in March and I understood that a lockdown was around the corner. I struggled with it at first, but when I saw there was no alternative—I furloughed my staff.
“Despite the fact that the business was closed to customers, I made sure to turn up to work each and every day. I worked alone, answering telephone calls and emails, taking orders and even delivering them to customers myself. When the lockdown ended, I brought all the employees back. But then July and August—usually the strongest period of the year because of the back-to-school period—were weak this time. There was a noticeable decline in footfall and a drastic drop in sales, especially to private customers. We sold fewer backpacks, writing implements, notebooks, pencil cases etc.
During Rosh Hashana we went into the second lockdown, hoping that it would be shorter than the previous one. Luckily, this time I had managed to obtain a ‘critical business’ permit, so that we could continue to operate under the purple badge restrictions. Before COVID, I also had a furniture showroom near the shop. During the first lockdown I took advantage of the opportunity and gave it to someone who wanted to use it to open a bed store. I considered opening a new showroom over the summer, but then the rumors started about a second wave. So I told myself, ‘let’s wait until the storm passes and then we’ll reassess’, and I’ve been waiting ever since.”
The writer is the owner of “Rabina Furniture and Office Equipment”
28 Giborei Israel Blvd, New Industrial Area, Netanya. Tel: 050-9400400
Eli Rabina (Courtesy)Eli Rabina (Courtesy)
Nir Shafir
Focus on a Limited Number of Products
One of the defining features of the coronavirus period is a transition to remote work, which has a direct impact on sales of office equipment. On the one hand, use of a range of office supplies has declined, but on the other hand there is an emphasis on a smaller pool of products, such as printer equipment—paper and ink. That is why my advice to owners of businesses supplying office equipment is to prepare an order form for office equipment that includes only a limited list of relevant items for the current period and to distribute it through digital media as well as letterboxes in the area near the business. Customers will place their orders either through the digital platform or by phone, and it will be delivered to them by a courier. In order to make sure that the order arrives within a realistic time-frame, it would be recommended to hire a courier on a bike or a Vespa to deliver the items.
The writer is a business and management consultant
Nir Shafir (Courtesy)Nir Shafir (Courtesy)
Karin Meyer
Acquiring Digital Marketing Skills
The transition to remote work and studying has become one of the defining features of our time. That is why businesses that sell vital accessories for work are able to leverage the current situation through effective use of digital platforms to reach new and carefully selected target audiences. Now more than ever, small business owners have to acquire digital marketing skills for their business. To that end, the Financial Growth Center is offering an online course for those who are interested in developing their individual or business brand through social media.
The course includes five short, focused sessions that include articles and video content. For example, social media marketing, building a community, developing content and defining goals.
To see the course for yourself, visit the website of the Financial Growth Center.
The writer is the director of the Financial Growth Center by Bank Hapoalim.
Karin Meyer (Courtesy)Karin Meyer (Courtesy)
Poalim – with you in every decision
As the economy continues to grapple with the outbreak of COVID-19, Ma’ariv and Bank Hapoalim are running a special feature, sharing and following stories of businesses in different regions and sectors and offering insight and support in coping with the current crisis and uncertainty. Every week, we will share practical tools, as well as offering insight and guidance into opportunities for financial and business development and growth in this challenging environment. The information contained herein is accurate as of the day of publication, and should not be understood as an alternative to professional consulting services that take into account the specific circumstances of the individual and are tailored to meet their needs.