This is a critical and important moment in retail. The Coronavirus has drastically changed our world and businesses everywhere are struggling to stay afloat. The reality is that this will be an immensely difficult time for every one of us. Still, with hardship comes opportunity.

Now is the time for us as a community to come together and support each other. In my 25+ years I have seen some truly great things from retailers and small business owners during trying times, and I do not doubt that I will see many more during this crisis. Already we see members coming up with creative solutions to forced closures and limited patronage. Businesses that have never offered delivery are adapting to the situation and reaching their customers. Communication has increased by nearly everyone. Retailers are reaching their audience on social media and growing their presence even as society begins to distance.

I know from experience that we all can weather this storm if we apply ourselves to the correct endeavors, with that said, we have implemented some changes and initiatives to ensure that our members and the larger Hampton Roads retail and small business community are properly guided and supported.

First, we have decided to postpone membership dues for four months. We want our members to focus their attention and resources fully on their business. Those whose membership is due in that period will not have their status as a Retail Alliance member impacted and will simply be asked to pay once the grace period has ended.

We have also opened our STRIVE Workshops from the last two years to everyone. Take advantage of this time to work on your business and learn all that you can. There are some great resources in this collection that can help you manage your social media and marketing efforts so that your audience and customers keep you in mind during this difficult period. Also, while our in-person events from now to the end of April are postponed, our STRIVE Workshops will still be held at the normally scheduled time. All our events are listed on our website, retailalliance.com.

We have also introduce special Retail Relief webinars on topics that are related to provide relief from the impact of the Coronavirus. We’ve invited experts to share their knowledge about issues related to employment, panels of retailers to share their stories and advice, and more are being scheduled as we publish this article.

We are hosting weekly Coronavirus updates. Each Friday at 9:30 a.m. we are updating retailers and small business owners about the news and decisions that impact you, in particular what legislative measures are being taken, what financial programs are available and any updates to these, etc.

Kate Baker, Virginia Retail Federation, is actively working on your behalf on legislative measures that can help retailers and small business owners. Keep an eye out for her “Action Alert” emails from the VRF. These emails are time-sensitive and your response to them could help a pro-small business bill get passed.

Tina Knight and Beth Cook, your member representatives, are reaching out by phone and email to their members to ensure you are taken care of. They are there to help you and be your support through this. If you need anything from them, or even just someone to talk to about what is happening, please reach out to them.

Lastly, we are striving to remain in constant communication with you throughout this whole process. Check your email often for the latest updates and information. You can also visit our Coronavirus Resource page on our website, https://retailalliance.com/coronavirus-resources-for-retailers/, for an up-to-date collection of the latest news, events, and resources to support you and your business.

As I have said before, this is a difficult time. The impact of the Coronavirus will be felt for a long time. We will do our best to support you and ensure that you are protected. As a community, we can and will come together and lift each other up. Together we will come out of this stronger and better prepared than ever.

Ray Mattes, President/CEO

Retail Alliance

rmattes@retailalliance.com