3 valuable questions that guided small NZ business through COVID-19

Sandy Urwin from Orewa’s Animal Natural Health faced what all Kiwi retailers faced in the first half of 2020. We had a chat with Sandy, who shared key nuggets of wisdom that guided her through the rough waters. Here’s 3 valuable questions that she asked herself, for her business:

1. “How can I make this easier for my customers?”

For some people, lockdown was their very first time making a purchase online. Sandy would help customers over the phone, talking them through how to pay online. For other people it was their first time out of the house for days. With all the changes of physical distancing and contact tracing, they felt annoyed about the inconvenience. She gave gentle reminders that they were all contributing to what is now (touch wood) a successful COVID-19 outcome.

Customers might be under economic pressures, or isolated at home, and they may find it harder to be calm and objective. I tried to be as welcoming as possible, and really understand my customers. No matter how trivial it seems, that moment of retail therapy may have been the highlight of their day, so listen with genuine interest. Clear away the mental dust, add colour to their day, and they’ll love what you’re doing

In any situation, a key to success is putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, and give an empathetic customer experience. And although Sandy faced challenges during lockdown, she took the time to communicate to her customers, and help them become conscious of the situation. Through this approach, she found that customers were more cooperative during the tough times.

2. “What can I do today, that will help me plan for tomorrow?”

When there seemed to be very little light or hope, Sandy took that “coal face experience”, drew back, and looked at her business holistically.

“One doesn’t look at the stamens of the flower, but the whole plant”

When the prospect of COVID-19 as a business challenge appeared, a remote method of payment would be required, so Sandy invested in a mobile Eftpos machine. People like to pay in all sorts of ways, from over the phone, to internet banking, to PayWave. And even though it was a contactless experience during lockdown, there was still eye contact through the glass, warmth in her voice, and customers were happy to be out and about.

The key to resilient retailing is multifactorial planning, actively adapting and exploring possibilities.

3. Who were my key sources of support?

Getting through the rough waters was a team effort. When looking at her key sources of support, top of Sandy’s list was her staff.

“I gained a new understanding and admiration of what it is to be a team. Sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve got, until times of stress. They encouraged one another, they encouraged me, and the teamwork was absolutely beautiful”

Beyond her own business, when the lights went out, her fellow retailers and neighbours were mucking in and helping each other. Everyone had skills to share and so much to offer each other, so Sandy encouraged everyone to realise how beneficial it is to step out of their square and engage with their local community.

It’s no secret that keeping up with all the legal changes from Alert Level 4, to get to where we are now, was challenging for business owners. Sandy found it of great value to consult experts whenever she had a business problem.

“I quickly cut through the uncertainty by leaning into community groups that were there for you. Retail NZ really just took the grey hairs out, giving me support whenever I felt unsure” (Thanks Sandy, we weren’t expecting such lovely feedback!)

“People get into business for their passions, and for the love of people. Consider EVERYONE – your team, your customers, your suppliers, your business neighbours, and of course, yourself!”

Sandy, we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy retailer day to chat with us!

Dear reader – if you have a success story and pro retail tips to help other business owners, please drop me a line at marketing@retail.kiwi.


By Tammy Kuo
Retail NZ

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