This Company Survived The Spanish Flu
They plan to survive COVID-19, too
Richard Graeter knew there were dark days ahead even before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued a stay-at-home order for the state on March 22. Considered an essential food industry business, Graeter’s Ice Cream did not have to close its Cincinatti factory or any of its 55 retail stores, the bulk of which are in Ohio and Kentucky, with a scattering of locations across Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania. But with brick-and-mortar accounting for 70 percent of sales and foot traffic all but shut down, Graeter braced for the sharpest decline in sales the company has seen in decades—if not ever. The impact was sharp and painful as predicted: April retail sales were down 35 percent.
“If not for COVID-19, I’d have had a stroke and died” hearing that number, said the CEO, who has worked in the family business for more than 30 years. “But, given COVID, well, let’s just say I’m happy that we were only 35 percent down.”
The blow was softened a little by a 30 percent boost in grocery sales and growth of the e-commerce business (figures for online sales were unavailable). Thanks to a prescient tech investment last year and months spent on back-end integration with the POS and payments systems and with the loyalty app—”a ton of work,” he said—the company had a brand new online-ordering system ready to launch just prior to the crisis.
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