From the Editor’s Desk: Go Forward! Keep Moving!

Jennifer Rook, Vice President, Communications and Marketing
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By JENNIFER ROOK, MRA Vice President, Communications and Marketing

Spring forward! Spring Ahead! Think Spring! Spring Fever! Or my favorite, Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s Party!”

Somehow the typical epithets used to describe spring seem to take on a whole new meaning this year. All of these bright and sunny phrases conjure up images of hope, renewal, and awakening. This year, when I think of spring, I keep hearing a war hero’s voice in my head yelling, “Go forward! Keep moving!” Let me explain. Throughout the pandemic like a lot of Americans, I’ve watched my fair share of TV. I tend to watch a lot of documentaries and historical dramas. This past Veteran’s Day, the History Channel aired one of my all-time favorite series HBO’s Band of Brothers, about the history of “Easy” Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and their campaign in Europe during WWII.

There’s a scene in one of the episodes where Easy Company faces an intense battle near Foy, Belgium where the leading officer, Captain Winters, repeatedly instructs his troops to “Go forward! Keep moving!” as they faced heavy artillery strikes from the Germans. You can actually feel the stress of the soldiers as they make their way under heavy fire, facing difficult odds.

When I think of spring and everything that’s happened over the past year, hearing Captain Winter’s urgent voice yelling, “Go forward! Keep moving!” seems to make sense. Yes, we are inching our way to the other side of the pandemic. As I write this, it was announced this week that stores can increase capacity to 50%. That news and the increased effort to get more Michiganders vaccinated sooner are steps in the right direction. As welcomed as that news was, all of us are a little battle scarred. We all want life to resume as we remembered it, but there’s a feeling of hesitation in the air. Is it safe to leave the house? Is it going to feel weird being around a group of people? Not to sound too dramatic, but for me, it feels a little like emerging from a shelter after a storm.

No one has to tell you this. As business owners, you’ve lived the struggle. We’ve heard repeatedly that many family-owned and independent Michigan retailers are barely hanging on. Yet, whatever hesitations we may be experiencing, we need to go forward and get busy living, as Morgan Freeman said in another one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption.

Within the pages of this month’s issue, we focus on stories that help you to get back to work with ideas on refreshing your digital marketing efforts, surviving a consumer backlash, hiring summer help, and inspiring stories featuring the Vermeulen family in an industry that’s experienced some incredible growth this past year. And our latest In Her Own Words feature, we highlight Jennifer Stehouwer, who owns Ball Park Floral & Gifts in Grand Rapids. It seemed appropriate to highlight a florist in spring, who like many of you, has faced a hard year and is anxious to get back to working at a pre-pandemic pace.

So, it’s time to get out of the yoga pants, open the windows, and run towards brighter days. In other words, go forward!

If you have suggestions on future articles or feedback on what’s been published, I’d like to hear it. Send me an email at jrook@retailers.com.