An Inside Peek at LifeThyme Natural Market
By Jason Bander
First, we want to thank you for reading this publication. We are grateful for any and all of you who’ve tendered your earnings and savings with us; we exist because of you.
Our foremost goal is to ensure your health and wellbeing. We take our role as a pillar of this community seriously. We also know our place when we see an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Now, let’s get started.
What we collectively experienced in this community, as February bled into March and a wave of uncertainty ensued, is a macro event. This is a time when our character, as individuals and collectively as a community, is tested. It’s a time when we can reflect on how we respond when the threads that constitute the fabric of our community are strained.
When major events occur, there’s a form of crisis management required to provide leadership and guidance. Sometimes our leaders make critical management decisions with reasonable perspective, sometimes not. Is there an absolute definition of “reasonable?” It’s what differentiates superior crisis management from questionable crisis management. This includes our own personal crisis management skills. In the case of a macro event, factors are magnified.
It’s fair to say, when decisions affecting our wellbeing are made, we trust they are made with our best interests in mind and with consideration of all factors with the most integrity available. This is the art of decision making. It’s hard to move forward successfully if you’re looking in the rearview mirror, we need to have the most reasonable perspective on the future as possible to manage in crisis.
In February I began meeting with my buyers and managers to update them on a prospective future. We started planning, first, for revised purchase orders to accommodate a spike in customer flow. I thought it best, for a number of reasons, to start building inventory that paired with economic events. A very busy last weekend of the month and a strong start to March was anticipated. I also wanted to prepare for our 25th Anniversary events and be considerate of the increasing chatter about the coronavirus COVID-19. According to these considerations, we began boosting our purchase orders while observing customer behavior, preparing for subsequent patterns that might indicate increased purchasing demand. And everything was going well until…a national emergency was announced. Watching it unfold, from the perspective of a food market and a vital neighborhood resource, was quite unsettling. This wasn’t hurricane or storm preparation. We witnessed panic buying. We watched citizens buying rice who’d never cooked a grain in their lives (the number of people who asked how to cook rice was the tell). We watched customers react emotionally to, “That’s a lot of zinc, it would be kind to leave some for others,” and those who came into the packed store and anxiously scream at everyone to keep their distance while shielding their faces with office paper. This was funny and, yet, not funny. It made us uneasy. Not good crisis management skills on display.
Fortunately, we thrived on uncertainty and helmed crisis management with level heads from the perspective of providers and protectors of the community. Supply chains were terribly disrupted as a result of what was a massive spike in human hoarding—that hyper competitive kill or be killed mentality of “I need to get mine or someone else will get it.” It’s hard to believe, but that’s how disruptive 10 percent of the consumer population can be to the remaining 90 percent. Bad crisis management and not very considerate of thy neighbors.
Immediately, we began working on boosting awareness within the store and among staff. We have commercial-grade sanitizer that we use for wiping down surfaces throughout the store, including shopping carts and baskets, credit card PIN pads, screens and door handles. I was in constant contact with our supply chain to assist in leveling out the reactionary spike. Because of our good relationships, we really didn’t feel much disturbance as deliveries resumed almost immediately. The cows keep milking, the chickens keep laying and the vegetables need harvesting. Certain things like hand sanitizer, bath tissue (this one is very confusing for us) and frozen fruits and veggies will take longer to get. We could not have predicted these spikes.
As things stand in the hour I am writing, we are trying to push all our customers to order over the phone or through our third- party delivery service, Mercato.com. From there, we are better able to allocate our resources in meeting the needs and wishes of our customers, without jeopardizing anyone while also improving the supply chain. We are issuing the staff members extra spending money to get them necessary foods and supplements. We also have to make adjustments for shifts in operating hours. There are so many more managerial decisions in the queue.
I could keep writing about strategic management but I feel this is also a good time to remind ourselves we’ve been through macro events before. For me, it’s best to stay the course and remain considerate of tomorrow while existing in the now.
The Andy Griffith Show is one of my all-time favorite shows. Thankfully, technology allows me to watch it any time I so desire. Like now—as I’m writing. I also enjoy classic professional wrestling from the ‘70’s and early ‘80s. My significant other is such a blessing, as is my family, including my father (in doses), the owner of LifeThyme. It’s a good time to identify with those things that help you remain centered. It’s also a good time to trust that LifeThyme will continue making decisions with your best interest in mind.
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