Ross from ABR Imagery takes a look at what shops can do during COVID-19
Ross Thackery is the owner of ABR Imagery. He also owns three smoke shops in Bloomington, Indiana, and is the creator of the FAM Show and Combustion for a Cause, a flameworking competition benefiting the Dane County Humane Association August 15-17 in Madison, Wisconsin.
In February, The FAM section (noted by the red carpet, blue drapery, and white tabletops) was a prominently featured area of the Winter CHAMPS Show in Las Vegas, NV. Since the show, a little virus has been wreaking havoc on the globe, impacting the American Glass Industry. Many stores have been forced to close down to aid in “flattening the curve” during the Stay In Place order. With these closures, many wholesale orders have been tied up in shipping, returned to sender, or even canceled. This flattening of the curve is flattening the American artists’ income.
The American glassworkers are typically small shops with low capital since US banks are not interested in funding our industry. COVID-19 has forced these workers to change their ways. Most that were living hand to mouth are seeing real hardships. While others are struggling to obtain supplies needed to produce their wares. Oxygen is vastly needed by many hospitals treating patients creating a low supply for glassblowers while the quarantine continues. Some are unable to travel to get their oxygen supply, even where it is available. Further worsening the situation, some glassblowers have contracted COVID-19 and are forced to bed while they heal. Each of these situations proves difficult for the American glass artist.
I would expect during these trying times, consumers are waiting for shops to reopen and spending their idle time enjoying their favorite glass pieces. As we all know, sometimes we drop or break these pipes or just have a serious craving for a fresh new clean piece. When the shops reopen, there is reason to believe that the customers will be foaming at the mouth to get their hands on new glass products. Stores will be seeing increased sales which will drive higher demand for glass with a decreased supply. In the aftermath, will the shortage and increased demand drive inflation in the product? Time will tell, but you need to be sure that your shop is ready for this glassy economic curve!
In the interim, what can a smoke shop do to create an income stream? Some have found success in creating web stores. Some have turned to local delivery, curbside pickup, or drive-through windows if permitted in their area. Phone sales are an old method of commerce, but they are again becoming a manner of business when we are stuck at home. A simple advertisement on the radio or newspaper with your phone number and the way they can get your products will get you a certain number of calls.
Some owners have converted their stores to sell hand sanitizers, masks, or groceries as these essential items are allowed. Once your business meets the criteria of “essential” you are in back in business! Consider offering a roll of toilet paper, a mask, or sample size sanitizer as an incentive for purchase. One thing is certain, the more people are stuck at home, the more time they have to consume. These increased consumption rates are going to create an increased demand coming out of this period. We are now living in different times, and owners must be creative to keep customers and employees happy.
CHAMPS, FAM, and ABR are with you during these unprecedented times. Please contact any of us if you have found a way to be successful in your area and we will use that information to update everyone in our community. We will make it through this together.