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Retail Survival Tips: Use Your Purpose to Inspire Your Pivot

Written by: Josh Radostits | Branding & Marketing Consultant | BComm' 2020

Pivot. It's another one of those business buzzwords that gets thrown around easily in times of crisis. But what does it actually mean for your business as a retailer?

The truth is pivoting your business is scary. It requires plunging headfirst into uncharted waters outside your normal. As a retailer, you've likely mastered a particular way of operating and disrupting that can be intimidating.

Here at the School of Retailing, we spend a lot of time researching retail trends and best practices. We feel confident that we can offer you guidance and direction in a time where there is little. To begin with, pivoting requires understanding your organization's purpose.

What is it about your retail business that gets you out of bed every morning? What are you striving for beyond making money? That's your purpose.

Your purpose (i.e. why you exist) will be your guiding star through this pandemic and beyond. Whatever decision you make should further your purpose.

Allow us to demonstrate using some examples of retailers who successfully used their purpose to inspire their pivot.

A Bowling Alley Turned Craft Beer Delivery Service

Plaza Bowling Co. is a third-generation family-owned bowling alley right here in Edmonton. They are no stranger to pivoting and remaining relevant, modernizing their 5-pin retro bowling alley into a hipster haven complete with funky local craft beers and the ability to book lanes online. When the pandemic hit, Plaza was forced to close its doors like many other retailers.

However, they knew their purpose was building community through bowling and beers. And even though their lanes were closed, there was still a community of bowlers out there in need of some local craft beer and a little community spirit.

So Plaza partnered with its craft beer suppliers and converted its website into an online beer shop with local delivery executed by its employees. The response from the community was overwhelming as orders came flying in and social media mentions of the retailer soared.

Pivoting to respond to their community's needs is what has allowed Plaza Bowling Co. to keep rollin' since 1959.

A High-End Restaurant Turned Meal Prep Service

Corso 32 is a group of three high-end Italian restaurants with different offerings situated side-by-side on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton. All three restaurants are consistently ranked among the best in Edmonton and in Canada overall. The impact of COVID-19 caused the Corso 32 Group to close all three restaurants and go back to the drawing board.

They knew their purpose was to bring an authentic Italian experience to the Edmonton community - inspired by owner Daniel Costa whose family roots are in Southern Italy. They also knew that Edmontonians still craved restaurant-quality experiences, especially on nights like Friday and Saturday.

So staying true to their purpose, they decided to create "Corso at Home", a meal-kit solution that allows customers to enjoy the Corso experience from the comfort of their own home.

It's strategic moves like this that keep Corso 32 on the best restaurants list year after year.

A Local Book Store Turned Travel Agency (well, sorta)

Far from Edmonton, AB in a much warmer Dallas, TX - there is a local book store called Wild Detectives whose story is similar to Plaza Bowling Co. The book store has constantly pivoted to remain relevant, with a full-service bar and line-up of community events every week. But when it's business was forced online only, the book store struggled with how to connect with its community.

Once again, they returned to their purpose. They knew they existed to make reading books more fun and engaging in the modern era. With that in mind, they decided to create a website called "" where they positioned their books as travel escapes depending on the city where the novel takes place.

For example, if you search "Paris", you'll be able to select different trips (i.e. books) within the city that suite your preferences. Once you go to book your trip, you can purchase that specific book from Wild Detectives.

The response has been amazing following an Instagram prank that announced the closure of the book store and the "launch" of their travel agency. Customers were perplexed at first but quickly got the joke and began buying books like crazy to fill their travel void.


The key to pivoting lies in understanding exactly why your organization exists. This is why it's an opportune time to invest in understanding what that purpose looks like from your customer's perspective. Various market research methods exist to help you achieve this. If you're looking for help, feel free to drop us a line and we'd love to chat further about helping you navigate this difficult time.

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