Nov. 25, 2020

Small Business Saturday Takes on More Meaning During a Year of Unprecedented Disruption

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Tucked in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday—the iconic shopping days that kick off the holiday rush—is Small Business Saturday. Given the year that’s drawing to a close, those entities that are the backbone of Main Street USA and elsewhere couldn’t be more deserving of patrons. Those that have done well in spite of the many curve balls have proven to be resourceful, agile, and tech savvy.

A decade ago, Small Business Saturday was created to shift the spotlight from big box retail to brick-and-mortar businesses. This year, that business segment has taken a colossal hit as a result of the pandemic. In the US, businesses were forced to close as state and county mandates restricted activities and gatherings to contain the spread of the virus. For retail stores, that meant no sales—or low sales, when allowed to reopen, due to less foot traffic.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in August, about one-in-five (21%) small business owners anticipated having to close if economic conditions didn’t improve within six months. Programs offering support, like Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, helped many stay afloat.

But as those opportunities ebbed, small businesses looked to reinvent themselves and their business models. Technology has been a key part of that transformation—especially for those that rely on imports. Recent trade wars, lack of carrier space, equipment shortages, and surging shipping costs have underscored the need for agility and transparency that technology delivers.

One company that transformed with remarkable agility during COVID-19 was Cloud Paper. The bamboo toilet paper company served corporate clients, including office parks, fitness franchises, and restaurant chains prior to the pandemic. But as offices and public spaces closed, and a sudden surge in demand for toilet paper on the consumer side emerged, Cloud Paper pivoted.

Flexport expertise and technology helped the business manage its supply chain evolution and increased its visibility and control. The digital platform allowed streamlined communication between Cloud Paper and its supply chain partners. Plus, with all shipment details centralized, and data insights readily available, the team was able to efficiently plan orders and inventory.

As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will need to be resourceful and tap into innovative solutions to ensure they can withstand uncertain times. How they adapt and use technology to engage with customers to create satisfying shopping experiences will be crucial. But to do so successfully will require data analytics to better understand trends in demand—and control enabled by visibility to better orchestrate things on the fly.

To learn more about how to manage supply chain challenges and growing pains, read the ebook, A Logistics Manager’s Guide to Modern Freight Forwarding.

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