Prepared in Jan 2021 by students of Epoka University
The Lockdown Economy is the United Nations registered initiative by the Think Tank AlterContacts to help small businesses overcome the challenges of the pandemic. This interview and its analysis were done in collaboration with Epoka University.
Lockdown was a difficult period for all businesses so we were all expecting a slowdown in business activity. In small businesses, it had a greater impact but for grocery stores it did not have much negative impact as they remained open at all times, always following the rules set by the government. The lockdown in Albania started in March 2020.
The business we are analyzing is a grocery store in the centre of Shkodra. It is one of the first grocery stores in this city that offers mainly food products and detergents. The store has been operating for fifteen years. It is a family business of four family members and two employees.
The first measures taken were:
- Mandatory wearing of gloves and masks by staff and customers.
2. Placement of the disinfectant at the entrance of the market.
3. Placement of signs that communicated to customers the distance they should have.
One of the biggest concerns for the owner, Eldina Rroji, during this time, was that they had been found unprepared for this pandemic, even though COVID-19 was already taking over the neighbouring states. The social impact was so big that made her lose focus and caused distress and disorganization in her business. The consumers were very stressed and that reflected on how they entered the store in a hurried way which led to confusion and long lines that were especially undesired during this time.
During our interview, we understood that there had not been a big impact on the cash flow of the Market Rroji, since the business kept open during the pandemic. Although there had been some fluctuations in demand. Consumers, in the beginning, ordered as many products as possible due to the fear of being locked down. But later large orders decreased. During this time, they also had to closer earlier than usual due to time restrictions. Hence, as Eldina expressed, we can easily say that these were the most challenging days of the pandemic for her.
As we all know the COVID-19 pandemic caused a knock-on effect on online businesses which experienced rapid growth. Due to government restrictions, consumers turned to online services. Online operations, such as making orders through WhatsApp, were used in the business of Eldina. The most preferred was WhatsApp because most of their clients come from the third generation and are familiar with only this type of social media. Eldina agreed that she would like to invest more in technology since she has found it very helpful and she would like to promote her business more through a website. Even though online delivery had been very helpful, it triggered an extra cost since the delivery was done for free as not to lose clients. Even though there was an extra cost she did not increase the price for her most wanted products being conscious that many people were suffering from unemployment.
The most popular products during the pandemic were ingredients for baking like oil, sugar, flour, salt, etc. There had not been a shortage of these products since the supply in her business had not been interrupted.
To sum up, everything that has been stated so far, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes in everybody’s lives and businesses. It found us unprepared, but as we all know, we humans are adaptive creatures and immediately started to take action in order to overcome this situation.
There are numerous steps we can follow to running smoothly in accordance with the pandemic, starting with the basics: personal hygiene, wearing masks and keeping a distance from one another, up to helping everyone around us. Businesses are one of the firsts to be affected by the pandemic after the health system, and this creates a domino effect, with the customers being the last domino.
So, having such a big impact on a large amount of the population, the businesses need to take action. As we can see from this case study, starting order deliveries and finding new ways to get in touch with the clients, while helping others — businesses also make more profit for themselves. It is an extraordinary time, and extraordinary measures need to be taken. We are in this together!