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Q&A: How small retailers can minimize losses during COVID-19

Small, independent stores have been hard hit by COVID-19 closures and the lack of customers. So Kitchener wholesale marketplace company Faire is looking to helping them out.

CBC K-W spoke to Marcelo Cortes, founder and chief financial officer of Faire, an online marketplace that matches makers with small retailers about the why his company published a COVID-19 survival toolkit, including a financial losses calculator and tips to help small retailers stop bleeding cash. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo: Let’s start with that loss calculator. Why is it something you felt small businesses needed access to?

Marcelo Cortes: When things started to happen with the coronavirus the first thing that we did as a business was start to take a look at our financials, everything that was happening with our company: where the money was going and start to project what’s going to happen to our business in different scenarios going forward, which of course is very hard to do. 

But we believe that a lot of the small and medium size businesses, most of our customers, have the same issue. First of all, they need to know where they’re at financially — how much money do they have, where are their expenses, where are they spending money, where can they save money, most importantly — and most of them are not prepared to have all that information handy so that they can take a full look at it, look at how to cut expenses.

They need to figure out how they can extend the time that they survive with business being a lot slower than it usually is. That’s where the idea to create this calculator came from. 

CBC K-W: What does it take into account that maybe they wouldn’t have considered on their own?

Marcelo Cortes: It’s definitely common sense. A business, they know their cash flow, they know where the money is coming in, where the money is going out. But if you combine the calculator with all of our blog posts as well, that gives you recommendations of what people can do to survive during this time. 

We’re not only giving the calculator where they can see where their money is being spent, we’re recommending where they can cut costs, and all of the supports so they can understand what they can do about their own situation with respect to government grants, what’s available, how we can help them apply and what’s available to each independent type of merchant on our platform.

CBC K-W: What do you think are the most important steps small retailers should be taking right now?

Marcelo Cortes:

  1. Understand your financial situation. 

  2. Adapt and reduce costs as much as possible – get rent forgiveness, apply and get all the grants and credit options available from the Canadian government. 

  3. Don’t buy as much inventory from us at Faire. In two weeks or less our customers need to realize their stores may be closed. That’s reality. 

  4. Move some business online if possible. 

  5. Sell more essential items, or what people are considering essential items right now: candles, hand sanitizer, soap, creams, entertainment for the family: puzzles and games and toys to play with the kids and family.

CBC K-W: How essential is it to your success that these small retailers survive this, you’re their supplier after all?

Marcelo Cortes: For us, as a company, we are well founded so it’s easier for a company like ours to survive through a longer period of time in a down market like this, in a crisis scenario. So it became very, very important for us, not to have revenue or grow our business, but to help our customers get through this. 

One of the beautiful things about our marketplace is we’re only a success if our customers are a success. The more sales we bring to our retailers the more they buy from us, the more we buy from the makers on our platform. It doesn’t help if our business survives but most of our customers can’t get through this and they go bankrupt. 

For our business it’s extremely important that our customers do well and survive through this crisis, but it’s also because of our belief — our vision is to help local retail. And if local retail gets hit hard, that’s not something we want to see.

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