Small businesses nationwide were already facing cash problems before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to McKinsey & Company. The firm found that almost one-third of small businesses were either seeing losses or making just enough to stay in business, but not realizing profitability.
Looking at businesses selling essential and non-essential items, McKinsey & Company reports that before satisfying their “interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization” obligations and accountings, they were facing challenging times. When it comes to selling essential items, such as food, business owners in this industry only had margins of 5 percent. For businesses selling non-essential items, this sector saw margins of less than 10 percent.
Restaurants provide an example of one way that outfits can pivot and increase margins by modifying their business models. While the Harvard Business Review (HBR) explains that restaurants have created additional seating near the kitchen to maintain social distancing, other examples of business model changes include increasing takeout, delivery, and catering as a way to increase sales for businesses with limited in-store dining.
While these ideas are simply expanding upon existing models to make up for lost in-dining experiences, HBR offers another way that a restaurant can better distinguish its establishment: developing a subscription model for customers. By slimming down menu choices for more efficient and faster preparation, restaurants could give customers the option to receive a certain number of meals per week or day for a fixed price.
While there are different types of margins for business owners to keep an eye on, an important one is gross margin and how it impacts a business’ bottom line. Since the onset of COVID-19, companies have been trying to survive as we work our way through the pandemic.
Regardless of the type of product being sold, by reducing the number of options available to customers, businesses can increase their margins by still meeting customer demand for necessities while also getting better prices from their suppliers through larger orders. This strategy also can be applied to contract manufacturers.
Re-engineering products and the ingredients that go into them can help to increase margins. For example, if there is a variety of pre-packaged foods that sell for the same price, but there are specialty or costlier ingredients like meat instead of vegetables, pausing selling pre-packed meals with meat can increase profit margins.
McKinsey & Company explains that small businesses can increase their hygiene and safety protocols by encouraging and implementing contactless experiences. Along with reducing person-to-person contact by using mobile apps, restaurants also have made delivery and takeout a more significant part of their sales.
With small businesses like boutiques and farmers, HBR illustrates how these entities can explore different sales channels. With stores facing shortages and an inability to stock essential goods – especially food items – small farmers saw an opportunity to reinvent their business models after restaurants and gourmet markets dropped purchases from them during the stay-at-home orders.
An investment in an online presence, shipping and logistics, and sustained sales and marketing efforts have real potential for businesses to become profitable as trends point to a direct-to-consumer model. However, going with a digital storefront such as Shopify and selling directly to retail customers, HBR pointed out that some farmers can capture local customers (15 miles or less). This shows how farmers have been able to migrate from one source of revenue to another.
While the pandemic is ongoing, these are just a few ways that companies can implement new strategies to generate cash flow and attempt to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.