Since March, Eastern National has been operating in what we define as a crisis phase. For a non-profit organization that relies primarily on earned income from the sale of educational products and services, our organization has been negatively impacted by store closures for over three months. Our top priority has been the safety and well-being of our employees and managing through this financial crisis.
This spring, we have been busy managing expenses, developing safety policies and protocols, and preparing for several scenarios to maximize revenue and reduce the overall risk to our organization. Eastern National strike teams have been hard at work developing plans in the following four areas:
- Employee and Visitor Safety
- Employee Retention
- Improve Cash Flow
- Return to Profitability
These efforts will ensure that EN is able to successfully manage through the crisis phase for the long-term health of the organization while achieving our mission. We identified expense management opportunities throughout every level of the organization. Unfortunately, we have had to make some very difficult decisions, including staff and salary reductions, furloughs, not backfilling vacant regional management and headquarters positions, delaying implementation of our Point-of-Sale system, and canceling all non-critical business travel.
The hard work and sacrifices made by our staff are beginning to deliver results. The Eastern National COVID-19 Safety Response Policy was published and shared with our partners to begin the work of adaptive operations. As the policy states, “Eastern National provides training to employees in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining workplace controls for social distancing, and effective housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. This protocol is mandatory for all worksites.” We recommend that our stores not staffed by Eastern National employees follow the same safety guidelines for non-essential retail. However, to manage the significant costs of safety equipment, EN is only able to supply PPE and safety equipment for EN employees.
After safely reopening our online store—ShopANP.org—in mid-April and increasing the frequency of promotions, sales quickly increased to +13 percent over the last year during the same time period. It is clear that park visitors want to support America’s National ParksTM!
Coming Soon: Recovery Phase
As we enter the first official days of summer, we are pleased to report that some of our park stores began the reopening process. As staff returns to work at the park stores in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Hot Springs National Park, Acadia National Park, Flight 93 National Memorial, Mammoth Cave National Park, and Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park—among others—we have had the opportunity to pilot reopening protocols as they apply to federal, state, and local mandates for non-essential retailers. With varying state requirements about maximum occupancy, required signage, and use of safety equipment, ongoing conversations between EN staff and park partners have been critical to our work. With our first “reopening weekend,” we saw park stores sales ranging anywhere from 12 to 77 percent of last year’s revenue for the same weekend. We will be tracking sales by store week over week and compared to prior years to identify early trends and results for operating safely during a global pandemic.
Most stores are fully stocked with high inventory levels that need to be liquidated and converted to cash quickly to sustain our operations. We are using a “sell what we have” strategy to manage inventory this summer. Due to the unique size and location of many park stores, identifying alternative store operations will help us begin serving visitors in some parks. Wherever possible, we aim to reopen stores in their current location. Unlike traditional retailers that may be able to offer curbside pickup or pop-up tents, these options frequently require operating systems and increases to payroll that cannot be supported by EN during the current crisis phase.
Eastern National won’t fully enter the recovery phase until the majority of our park stores are open to the public. Even with the stores staffed by park partners and volunteers, sales for the month of June are only about six percent of last year’s monthly revenues. We still have a long way to go. We appreciate the support of our park partners and the collaboration that is vital to reopen park stores as safely, affordably, and quickly as we can. These joint efforts will hopefully allow EN to enter the recovery phase soon and get back to serving the visitors to America’s national parks and other public trusts.