As Americans, one of the things that defines us is our outlook on the world. We tend to look for (and find) the opportunities around every corner; we’re confident in our ability to overcome even the deepest challenges; we believe we will rise to the occasion; and, we believe in each other (yes, even in spite of our recent and multiple crises and political polarization).

No one likes to confront the possibility that this pandemic and its economic impact will be felt for a long time and that it could possibly change the world in uncomfortable ways, and perhaps forever. No one wants to think the worst. But maybe we should. 

Robert Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler, has said that Wall Street is underestimating the economic impact we now face. He’s calling it a tsunami. He bears listening to.

Stay with me for a minute. Let’s try an experiment. Let’s – for a moment – suspend our positivity and become naysayers and devil’s advocates for a more serious and difficult to overcome scenario. I say that not to scare you off or to fuel your anxiety, but to get us to think about how to face the worst so that we are better prepared to respond to the unforeseen and unexpected challenges we may encounter. Hopefully, this exercise will allow us to tap into our creativity to help us carve out a more positive path to recovery. 

The good thing about this type of exercise is that it may open our eyes to new ideas about how to best proceed, to recover, to survive, and perhaps even to thrive. 

Let’s start by taking a look at the restaurant industry because it has been particularly hard hit and has been close to home for many of us during the shutdown. Many experts are saying that half of all restaurants may never recover and may close down for good. It’s not just that some won’t survive the shutdown we’ve already endured, but that under the new rules of social engagement – social distancing, limited person-to-person interaction, heightened health and safety concerns – restaurants may not be able to adapt. How do they survive at 25%, 50% or even 75% reduced capacity? The truth is that many won’t. How can workers who have lost a month or two of wages recover to the point where they can afford to eat out? That could take months. 

These are just some of the challenges they face. But for even as hard hit as restaurants are, some have found new and creative ways to reimagine their businesses.

Some have expanded their take-out services and I suspect that will be a lifeline for their future survival. Others have started preparing meal kits – anything from fully prepared meals to Taco Bell’s At Home Taco Bar, which is a box of ingredients you can put together yourself. No one expects that self-serve buffets will survive in their current state. Maybe instead, we’ll have servers behind plexiglass screens dishing out spoonfuls of this and that as you go through the line choosing your favorites (think of a school cafeteria setting). Some have responded to reduced capacity by asking local municipalities for permission to spread more of their tables to sidewalk cafes. Maybe with less on-demand capacity, we’ll see an increase in reservations done online. 

My point is that the restaurant industry is going to have to come up with creative solutions to keep their businesses thriving. And no matter how bad it gets and no matter how many close down, many will not only emerge from this crisis but will survive and eventually thrive under the new rules of engagement. But many won’t.

What does recovery look like for your business? Starting with in-store traffic, in a post-pandemic world, expect fewer, not more people to walk in off the street to shop in your store. 

That begs the questions: How will you make up that shortfall? What can you do to your online and social media presence to mitigate some of that impact? I’ll admit, this is a particularly thorny problem with no easy answers. One thing for sure, most of you can and should count on spending more money in this area.

Is there an opportunity here to open up more space on your showroom floor, to create more private workstations, to help folks feel more comfortable sitting face-to-face with your sales team? 

Speaking of your sales team, how will this affect them? Will you have to cut personnel, or will you go with across-the-board cuts for all employees? 

Does this new need for more floor space force you to re-examine the products that crowd your showroom today? Maybe you don’t need to have every product from every manufacturer on display. You may have to make some tough decisions about what gets featured and what goes. How will this affect the way you merchandise your showroom? Is it time to offer more curated collections and sections? 

And how about the fastest growing part of flooring retail: home centers? What can you do to attract some of their shoppers to your store? Do you need to step up your DIY business? Do you need to expand your offering of lower price point goods? Or maybe in your market, it’s not base grade but rather luxury products that need to be expanded. 

There is no one-size solution that fits all. The solutions will be as varied as your businesses are, but as Steve Jobs said, “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”

The Floor Trends team has done a great job of reaching out and talking with retailers who are willing to share some of their best practices.