Chit Juan On Continuing Business Amid The Covid-19 Pandemic Threat
I have always been a retailer, with brick and mortar stores or storefronts as we call them so just imagine how the pandemic threw me off balance. But instead of curling up under the sheets and wishing the nightmare to end, I braced myself. This is it! Bite the bullet! Do what needs to be done.
My ECHOstore partners and I saw what was to come next: store closures. We had to move fast as many of our goods have expiry dates and we had cafes with fresh stocks of food, too. A lot of judgment calls were needed. Throw this. Give these away. Clean the warehouse. Move it closer to point of use. Before the lockdown, I asked a supply chain expert about managing inventory. He summed it all up in one word: optimise! And optimise we did, one item at a time.
It was also good that we prepared our digital workforce, all virtual service providers. We started to use our online store and kept just one stand-alone store as our hub. There was no back office and all my supervisors could only work from home. I looked at costs and what we could possibly sell online. We rolled up our sleeves and went to work, from home. I found myself doing the tasks of a warehouse clerk, dispatcher, scheduler and salesperson. Talk about multi-tasking. It was a true test of grit, patience and faith.
Something tells me this will be the new normal and that we must just shift and pivot to a new way of doing business.
It was fortunate that we earlier prepared to go digital. We refreshed our online store (www.echostore.ph) a few months before the lockdown and also found ourselves ‘onboarding’ in other platforms like Beauty MNL, Grabmart and Pickaroo. I had to shift gears and think digital with everything—payment systems, logistics and all that would make us continue to bring in cash flow, the lifeblood of any enterprise in these challenging times.
How do I see the future? Perhaps we can finally have that café near our little farm in Cavite and hold seminars on farming, coffee and sustainable living. We shall remain faithful to our tag—ECHOstore: sustainable lifestyle—even as we will no longer be a physical store in a mall but rather an experience to be shared with others.
This pandemic is unprecedented in how it has become a game changer—not just for business models but in transforming people to finally adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Ironic how a pandemic is exactly what one needs to be able to shift and change.
- Words Chit Juan