Episode 13 of the Savvy Shopkeeper Retail Podcast is one of the most downloaded episodes. And I understand why—in that episode, I highlighted what members of the Savvy Shopkeeper community had done to have a successful 2019. It helps to know what contributes to the success of other independent retailers!

But no one could have predicted 2020. Much of the advice given in episode 13 didn’t apply to 2020, like hosting in-person events (does anyone else miss in-person events, by the way? I miss those moments with our shop community so much!).  

Like with episode 13, I asked members of the Savvy Shopkeeper community to tell me what helped them succeed in the past year. And with the past year being right in the middle of a pandemic, the responses were unique to 2020. 

What Contributed to My Own Store’s Success This Year

Whenever I ask these questions in our Master Shopkeepers and Shopkeepers Lab groups, I think about my answer. And I couldn’t think of just ONE answer for our success in 2020. Here are the three things that helped us this year: 

1. My grit. 

I was so determined not to let this pandemic bring me or my business down. This meant that I had a lot of work to do, especially on myself. I invested in a coach in 2020, and what I found was that I was resisting both getting coached and becoming a coach. Embracing coaching changed my life—I’ll be sure to make an episode about that soon. 

When I work with my 1:1 clients, it brings me so much joy. I feel like coaching my clients has validated the path I’ve been on with Savvy Shopkeeper these past few years. 

2. Online Shopping & Shipping

We spent all of 2019 filling our online shop with EVERYTHING in our store—from furniture to paint to home decor. Nearly every item in our physical store is listed on our online shop, and thank goodness for that. 2020 would not have turned out the way it did for us without our online presence. 

3. Systems

Without systems, we would never have been able to split the store hours in the way that we did. We both worked half as much but accomplished just as much as 2019. I talked more about this in Episode 59, which you should listen to if you want to improve your systems and processes for your store. 

4. The Shop Small & Shop Local Love We Received

Last but definitely not least, we received so much community support in 2020. Our customers seriously showed up for us, and it was so heartwarming. If you’re a customer of mine at the Salvaged Boutique, I can’t thank you enough. 

What Made 2020 Successful for Members of the Savvy Shopkeeper Community 

Many of our fellow shopkeepers responded to my question, too. Here are the factors they say made 2020 amazing, even amid a pandemic: 

“When the local government says close your doors, don’t close your doors. Just do business differently.”

Jenna of Chic Artique started her response with, “One thing? Ha.” And I agree, it’s hard to contribute success to just one thing! 

But the sentence that struck me was this: “The most rewarding year ever to be in business.” 

I loved Jenna’s answer. We all adapted and learned how to run our businesses in new ways, even when our brick-and-mortar locations were closed to the public. I’m sure that many of us felt frustrated, sad, and lonely in 2020. But there’s always a silver lining to be found, even amidst all the challenges we faced last year. 

New Ways to Get Items to Customers

Many shopkeepers said that curbside pickup, local delivery, and improving their shipping margins made 2020 successful for their businesses. 

All of those things were extremely important because people were quarantined. But you had to figure out a way to get your items into their hands. And we had to get creative. The most important part here was figuring out how to get your goods to your customers, and most of us did it.

Using Your Voice

One shopkeeper said using her voice to share her stores’ values was the needle-mover for her two businesses. She spoke up for what she believes in throughout 2020, and her customers responded to it.

Maturity as a Business Owner

I can appreciate this one because I feel like I grow every year. This particular shopkeeper said not trying to please every single customer but instead, they focused on their loyal customers and how to serve them best. I thought that was great.

Tenacity and Positivity

I love this response because these shopkeepers have their own backs. They gave themselves credit rather than giving their e-commerce platform or another outside source all the credit. 

One shopkeeper said, “the first thing that came to mind was that I didn’t give up.” 

Another said, “thinking positive and just putting one foot in from of another.” 

And Holly, the shopkeeper shoutout in this episode, said, “taking it one day at a time and not panicking over every curveball that 2020 threw at us.”

Selling on Social Media and Via Live Sales

There were quite a few shopkeepers who had to overcome their fear of doing live social sales. And when they did, it was really effective!

So many customers wanted to shop with us but couldn’t. Selling on Facebook or Instagram live and using programs like Comment Sold was a great way to serve our customers and get our goods into their hands. My sister and I used it for our own store, too, and we’re so grateful that we did. 

Amazing Business Partners

One shopkeeper credits her husband, who stayed calm and focused during all the crazy days.

Increasing Their Inventory

Several shopkeepers increased their inventory and/or added new product categories to their stores. 

One shopkeeper said, “The second half was substantially increasing my inventory. It felt like a big risk at the time, but I’m so glad I did.”

Another shopkeeper mentioned, “I would say having inventory. I purchased three shipping containers to use to store inventory…best decision ever.”

I love that they identified that maybe their stores were getting empty and that people really were enjoying shopping with them—even if it meant being online or being limited in the store in terms of how many people could be there. They filled the gap by adding inventory and not being afraid to make that investment.

Being Budget Conscious or Debt Free

I have a deep appreciation for this one because my sister and I bootstrapped our business. Bootstrapping is when you pay cash for everything to build your business. You don’t take out any loans, and you don’t owe anyone money. And then you use the money from the business to reinvest.

Being debt-free makes you feel safe. I felt reasonably confident that we could last six to nine months, maybe even a year, without really panicking. 

One shopkeeper said, “Having no business debt. We could better use every penny coming in during the lean weeks/months while we were pivoting, rethinking, and eventually moving.”

Expanding to a Larger Store

Speaking of moving, some shopkeepers moved into much larger spaces. And they credited this to helping their 2020. They got the bigger store that they needed. They were able to add more merchandise, which allowed them to become successful.

Creating a Website and Shifting Online

There were so many retail business owners who weren’t prepared for the pandemic. They had to pivot, shift, and hire out website creation quickly. They just had to get it done—and knew that if they didn’t, there was a chance that their business wouldn’t survive. 

Omnichannel marketing and e-commerce aren’t going anywhere. We all need to focus on this in the coming years!

Support from Family, Friends, and the Community

Finally, several shopkeepers said that the support of their community, their family, and their friends helped them have a successful 2020. 

One shopkeeper said, “Tremendous support from friends!! So many spread the word and looked to me for gifts this year versus the big box stores.” 

Another shopkeeper said, “Support from local people, and generous landlords who waived rent for three months with no payback obligation.”

Comparing Success in 2019 to 2020

To summarize, here are the categories that made independent retailers successful in 2019:

  1. Doing it scared
  2. Building a strong sales team
  3. Expanding offerings
  4. Instagram, Facebook, & Facebook Ads
  5. Special Events
  6. Customer Service
  7. Coaching

The strongest categories from 2020 were:

  1. Curbside Pickup, delivery, or shipping
  2. Tenacity and positivity
  3. Live or social selling
  4. Increasing inventory or adding categories
  5. New website / shifting online
  6. Support from friends, customers, and community
  7. Being debt-free

You can see how different these two years were. The stories of pride, resiliency, and local support are heartwarming. It proves that independent retailers are full of GRIT, and they’re SCRAPPY. After 2020, though, don’t mess with us.

The biggest lesson learned is that we are resourceful and resilient. If we can survive—and for some, THRIVE in 2020—then good things are possible in 2021. Don’t underestimate yourself! And if you’re feeling tired or lonely and you’re a member of one of our communities, don’t forget to lean on us.



  • [04:24] What Contributed to My Own Store’s Success This Year
  • [07:47] What Made 2020 Successful for Members of the Savvy Shopkeeper Community 
  • [17:50] Comparing Success in 2019 to 2020

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