COVID-19: How to adapt your business to the pandemic

How to cope with the financial crisis—and even emerge from it stronger.

A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Nissim Atias
A Virtual Store – Changing Approach and Logistics
“I opened my fashion business 15 years ago, in the Power Center shopping complex in Ashkelon. We import and tailor wedding suits for grooms, and specialize in luxury designer brands for men. Over the years we built up a loyal customer base, not only from the south. Business was going well until COVID-19 came along. I had ten employees, three of them tailors, but when the first lockdown started I furloughed them. At the same time, we started to work with a delivery firm, but it isn’t the same. Why? Because I sell high-end designer brands, which involves a lot of logistics—the customer has to try on the suit, and if he has any requests, we need to adjust, sew or replace the suit accordingly.
“Eventually, the expense associated with the physical store started to drag us down. I was paying 30 thousand NIS per month on rent for 250 m2 of commercial space. Once you factor in other expenses and payments, you’re down 50-60 thousand NIS per month before you’ve even started. That was why two months ago, when the lease with the shopping center came to an end, I decided not to renew it, and moved to a 70 m2 space that I own in Herzl St. At the moment, the only people who are with me are my son, Afik, and one other employee. As long as there are no weddings, events and celebrations, our turnover remains low. At the moment our customers are mostly young men who like to dress smart.
“Right now I’m concerned about a disagreement with a few of the importers of famous brands that have worked with me for many years. Since I moved to the smaller store, they have withheld stock from me because they have another customer in the same area. It’s frustrating and disappointing, because especially at times like these we need to look out for one another, and even more so when you’re a long-time, loyal customer. At the same time, I opened a website, a virtual store, because this is the time to change approach and logistics. I pay a company that advertises us via social media, in the hope that by the time the wedding season comes around in the spring, the situation will have returned to normal.”
The writer is the owner of “Emporio Luxury Brands and Wedding Suits”. 21 Herzl St,
Omid Cohen
Making the Most of Lockdown to Renovate the Store
“I made aliya to Israel from Iran in 2001, and after two years I opened my store on Weizmann St in Kfar Saba. I offer affordable footwear of all types—for men, women and children, winter and summer, local brands and imports. My main selling point is the personal touch and customer service I provide. We like to say, ‘there are a lot of shops, the personal touch is what makes the difference’. I have opened new branches in the past in Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, but it didn’t work out—mostly because I wasn’t there myself.
“Before COVID-19, I employed three people and business was going good, if not great. There’s a problem with the global e-commerce websites that are ‘killing’ our livelihood. The damage they are doing outweighs the damage from COVID-19.
For example, they don’t pay taxes on their sales, whereas as an importer and store owner, I pay a whole lot. During the first lockdown, the store was closed and I furloughed my employees. At the same time, I unsuccessfully tried to rent out another shop space I had in Kfar Saba, but people aren’t opening new businesses at the moment. So a few months ago I was forced to sell it, because I couldn’t keep up with the expenses on two shops. In hindsight, that made life easier for me and for my business.
“After the first lockdown, I started getting into deliveries, but the turnover isn’t high. I sell footwear at low prices, and it isn’t viable because of the high cost of the deliveries. So for now, I’m left with a ton of stock in storage. A few weeks ago we entered the third lockdown and stopped almost everything, because there are almost no orders coming in. I’m making the most of the opportunity to renovate and upgrade the store while it’s closed, in the hope that it will pay off in the future. At the same time, this period has given me time to think about the fact that I need to spend more time with my family, because before COVID-19 I was spending too much time at work.”
The writer is the owner of “Omid Shoes”. 92 Weizmann St, Kfar Saba. Tel: 050-6477127
Dan Cristal
Integrating Technology in the Purchasing Process
The need for business owners to “reinvent themselves” in order to survive and thrive financially is a point that comes up again and again, especially in retail commerce. It appears here too, in the stories of Omid, the owner of a footwear store, and Nissim, owner of a designer label store, and it appears that they have both made the necessary adjustments to the present circumstances. Now is the time to take that one step further and adopt new technologies. When we talk about the “user experience” today, we are referring to an experience that integrates advanced technologies. For example, there are websites that allow you to measure clothes and see exactly how they would look on you via AR and VR glasses provided by the site—for you to then print the clothes for yourself at home using a 3D printer. It is also possible, for example, for the measuring and fitting process to take place at the customer’s home but for the printer itself to be in the store, which means people visit the store and see it. True, this m
ight be revolutionary for Israel, but this is the direction that retail commerce around the world is heading in.
The writer is a business and management strategy and expert in the development of human capital
Sharon Nissim
Making Decisions and Implementing Them Quickly
With the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, many businesses found themselves facing a situation that required them to make decisions and implement them quickly. To survive this period, and even remain profitable, business owners in all sectors are having to reinvent themselves and adapt to challenges, as well as to new opportunities. This highlights the need to constantly keep a finger on the pulse and to streamline in the face of changing circumstances. On the one hand, it’s important to assess ways to reduce expenses, while still continuing to generate income. And indeed, we are seeing our clients find creative solutions such as moving to a smaller space, downsizing the workforce, finding ways to keep in contact with regular clients and adjusting to be able to keep selling via deliveries. And how do challenges become opportunities? Renovating the store, spending more quality time with the family. Although I would say that my tip to clients is to keep in touch with us, let us know what you’re doing, because we have a range of solutions to offer—together we’ll make it through.
The writer is the manager of the business department at the Kfar Saba branch of Bank Hapoalim