In March 2020, the Alecrim street store was closed for two weeks, as never before in more than 100 years of history, due to the new coronavirus pandemic. With closed doors and the risk of a “crash”, the National Service for Commercial Learning (Senac-RN) has set up courses for traders to maintain business amid a scenario of change and uncertainty. The solution was digital platforms.
According to the Association of Entrepreneurs Bairro do Alecrim (Aeba), about 3.1 million people visit more than 4,500 shops and services in the neighborhood. During the peak of the pandemic, constant movement gave way to emptiness. With no demand in the physical space, retailers had to adapt to the digital world. The cell phone screen was a found alternative for securing income and employment.
However, the biggest challenge was to educate traders with new technologies. According to a survey conducted by Aeba, 11% of them did not use any digital tool. Already half of the entrepreneurs used the Internet only for trade promotion, but not for sales.
Thinking about ways to improve and help adapt to the new environment, the Senac-RN team met and developed an answer for micro and medium entrepreneurs in the neighborhood. In the first year of the pandemic, the course “How to put your business on the Internet” was launched exclusively for Alecrim, which was attended by 96 companies. With experience, next year the course was expanded to 15 municipalities, with 500 companies served, five of which operate on the eastern side of the capital. This year’s cut has not been announced yet.
Entrepreneur Pedro Campos is the living side of statistics. A store owner in the refrigeration sector in Alecrim, his company had a fundamental role in social media until the outbreak of the pandemic, when they became a sales channel for the trade. Without specific knowledge about digital commerce, the entrepreneur resorted to a training course offered by Senac-RN.
“Until the pandemic, we didn’t have that expertise in working with distance sales. With the pandemic, situations arose where we couldn’t work, we even closed the store for almost a week. Through actions initiated by Fecomércio, through Senac, we were involved in training aimed at online sales. And then it allowed not only my company, but several here at Alecrim to train their staff in terms of training for a non-face-to-face sales format,” reported businessman Pedro Campos.
According to the regional director of Senac-RN, Ranieri Pimenta, one of the biggest difficulties it faced at the time was the lack of technological know-how of the merchants in the neighborhood. The course provided concepts on how to use social media, such as WhatsApp Business, and sales platforms, while detailing the operation of other delivery methods, such as delivery, takeaway and over-the-road.
Another improved feature was the expansion of payment methods. According to a survey of consumer habits in Bairro do Alecrim, published in July of this year by the Federation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism (Fecomércio RN), the majority of Alecrim customers pay for their purchases in cash (43.23%). With the creation of Pix, entrepreneurs also had to adapt. This topic was also part of the training.
“It didn’t make sense to just set up a course and say ‘come here and learn how to do it’ because it would take time for those people who are not used to working with e-commerce. We have set up a structure with trainers to diagnose the company, to help them take it into their own hands and implement what they have learned. It’s a course you learn, and we help you choose, with the experience of the teachers, the best social media. That is, individualized orientation while that company does not already have e-commerce installed,” explained the director of Senac-RN Ranieri Pimenta.
Digital learning has been fundamental for Alecrim, according to Aeba President Matheus Feitosa. In the two weeks that the facilities were closed, he estimates that the neighborhood store lost about R$100 million in sales.
“Alecrim continues to sell, creating jobs and income, thriving because of its essence of having everything easily, at a good price and with the variety that only Alecrim has. . Sometimes you look on the Internet and you see that the companies in Alecrim also have them” , said Matheus Feitosa .
Even with the full reopening of the street store, the teachings promoted by Senac-RN during the pandemic updated the largest retail center in the country. Retailer in the refrigeration sector, Pedro Campos, is a case in point. For him, the greatest legacy was the learning he incorporated into his work.
“Today, the customer often doesn’t even come to the company, make an agreement, pay Pix and we deliver the goods. Before, we didn’t have that facility, we didn’t work like that. Closing the purchase,” says the entrepreneur.
Adaptation without losing tradition was one of Senac’s goals for Alecrim. It was important to prevent the closing of shops and for entrepreneurs to recognize the need for a digital environment.
For Ranieri Pimenta, there is no longer an option to not have a job in technology assets. “It’s not that Alecrim’s entrepreneur stopped coming physically, but that he started coming online, he started having a new sales channel. That is part of his job,” said the director of Senc. “It was an acceleration of the future,” he added.
The digital update that Alecrim went through is the biggest legacy left to the entrepreneurs from the neighborhood and that they are keeping for the future.
“We must always be up to date, this was the biggest legacy that the pandemic left for Alecrima,” said Matheus Feitosa. He assured that, if necessary, local companies will be ready to work behind closed doors.
There is a famous saying from Potiguar that became the slogan of a marketing campaign: “If you can’t find it on Google, you will find it on Alecrim”. The moment business has changed, digital has arrived to add to the neighborhood, showing that consumer and retailer are getting closer, separated by just a click.
According to a survey of consumer habits in Bairro do Alecrim, published in July of this year by the Federation for Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism (Fecomércio RN), the middle profile of customers is made up of people between 35 and 59 years old (47.61%), with family incomes between 1 and 3 minimum wages (46.61%), who often shop in the neighborhood (63.15%) and who always find what they are looking for there (71.31%).
Also according to the survey, the main reason for visiting Alecrim is the offered prices (54.18%), which are mostly paid in cash (43.23%).
According to the Alecrim Entrepreneurs Report, organized by Fecomércio RN, there are a total of 5,219 companies in the neighborhood, 2,567 in the trade segment and 2,010 in the service sector.
20 to 25 thousand jobs are generated directly and indirectly, Aeba estimates. The association also estimates that the street trade receives 3.1 million people a month.
The National Service for Commercial Learning (Senac) is a private, non-profit institution that manages the payroll of large and medium-sized companies. Our mission is to educate for work. The role of the institution was to build opportunities through counseling and guidance along with the course so that these companies could develop.
That is, to educate workers in the midst of market situations. To give you an idea, for every ten courses that Senac offers today, six of them did not exist before the pandemic.
From April 2020 to July 2022, 2,705 enrollments were registered in more than a hundred courses offered by the institution.