With more Australians spending time inside, it may not be the best time for partying. We sat down with Dean Salakas, the Chief Party Dude at The Party People, to discuss how the outbreak is affecting his business.
Australia is currently spending the majority of its time indoors, which has severely impacted a series of retailers and businesses. The Party People is no exception, due to self-isolation. “People are just not having parties (for good reason I might add) however sales have dropped about 85 percent,” said Dean Salakas, Chief Party Dude at The Party People.
There have been a series of changes for The Party People as a result of Stage 3 closures. However, more people introduce virtual hangouts into their weekly routines, as Salakas explains. “People are having parties at home with people in their household. So the orders tend to be smaller than usual,” he says. “People are also buying products we have for parties and instead using them to have fun in isolation. We are selling arts and crafts, dress-ups, baking products and games mostly.”
As Australia adapts to these changes, so do The Party People. It’s not business as usual for this retailer, as it has had to scale back and take things one day at a time. “We have a bunch of safety measures in place, and we have had to scale back significantly more than we ever thought possible,” Salakas tells Power Retail.
“At present, for a CEO, the company strategy is being re-evaluated daily. We have to revaluate our whole short, medium and long term strategy almost daily,” he says. “Our business has been hit very hard, so we are wrestling with an environment that shifts substantially every day. Every day we have to consider, new announcements, new rules, new stimulus and on top of that we have to consider our own views on where we are headed long term with COVID-19. As such, there hasn’t been any time for us to really consider how to “invest” at present.”
As a result of the outbreak, The Party People have introduced health and safety measures to ensure maximum protection for its staff and customers. “We have a number of new procedures, and we have set things up for people to queue without being in close contact,” Salakas says. “We have sanitiser instore and request customer pay by card rather than cash.”
Throughout the store, The PartyPeople have adapted to recent changes and set up survival packages for customers. “What we have done is set up a “coronavirus survival” section on our site which has things to do at home like arts and crafts, dress-ups, baking products and games as well as safety items like masks and hand sanitiser,” he explains. “The hand sanitiser is currently our best selling product as we have been fortunate to have some good relationships that mean we have always been in stock of at least 1 line of sanitiser.”
So, what’s essential for Dean Salakas and The Party People? Its people. “It might be embarrassing to say that, but our focus has been on safety of our team, financial sustainability and helping our customers have parties and celebrate their occasions as best as possible without guests,” Salakas says. “We feel we have a responsibility to focus on mental health while people are isolated, and that’s where you might see some more focus from us over the coming weeks.”
As staying inside has forced people to commit to online shopping, Salakas believes that the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “In the past, I have constantly said when speaking or writing how ‘online is only 9 percent of all retail sales and while over 80 percent of purchases start online, most are finished in a physical store, so bricks and mortar is king for the foreseeable future’,” he says. “Some have suggested that faster internet will result in online sales growing exponentially but if going from 3G to 4G didn’t have a dramatic impact (we have seen online retail compared to bricks are mortar grow at 1 percent per year for the last five years), I can’t see how 4G to 5G wouldn’t have a smaller impact. So I was of the view that online retail will not be bigger than bricks and mortar retail for the foreseeable future.”
As the outbreak dwindles, Salakas believe that the online boom will continue, as customers become accustomed to the environment. “I think COVID-19 has forced people to shop online that might have wanted to shop instore and many of them will become very accustomed to it over the next few months, so I feel that when we come out of isolation, we are going to see that “9 percent” spike significantly,” he explains. “So I stand corrected, I think COVID-19 will have a massive effect on retail growth online vs bricks and mortar. What it will be, time will tell.”
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