Fashion Consort President Joshua Williams Shares His Insights On The Re-Opening of Brick and Mortar Retail
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Fashion Consort President Joshua Williams Shares His Insights On The Re-Opening of Brick and Mortar Retail

May 22, 2020

This article is part of Raydiant’s Re-opening of Brick and Mortar series which interviews top retail industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the sector, how retailers should prepare for the re-opening and what trends, challenges and changes are expected over the next few months. 

The following is an interview we had with  Joshua Williams, founding president of Fashion Consort and assistant professor of fashion management, Parsons School of Design.

What will the re-opening of brick and mortar retail look like?

JW: Slow and cautious. While retailers are anxious to open their doors sooner than later, they also want to assuage customer fears, and ensure they are not opening themselves to liability. This is an opportunity to also really rethink the customer experience in brick and mortar, including store flow and customer service. Retailers will need to thoughtfully connect touchpoints between online and brick & mortar.

What should retailers be doing now to prepare for the re-opening?

JW: Retailers should be thinking very much about their core customers and the key products and services customers expect from them. Even before the pandemic, retailers were beginning to realize that customers want more focused merchandise offerings and more authentic brand experiences, that tied back to customer lifestyle.

Additionally, retailers should really be looking at their total retail operation, and determine exactly how to optimize digital to decrease “high touch” areas of business. For example, an integrative Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) service will likely be crucial to many retailers. Additionally, in reverse, how will retailers deal with returns, considering the safety concerns around Covid-19.

How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior over the long term?

JW: Consumers will become more aware of what they are buying, particularly from a supply chain perspective. They will demand transparency from brands, as a way to ensure their own individual safety.

Consumers will also rely heavily on brands they feel they can trust at all levels. Retailers are going to have to work hard to build that trust.

What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on brick and mortar retail?

JW: The long-lasting effects of Covid-19 on brick and mortar will primarily focus on in-store experience and service. Consumers will be much more aware of how stores are designed to increase personal space while shopping. Clean bathrooms, hand sanitizer and clear messaging around products will also become front and center.

Brick and Mortar retailers will also need to be much more strategic in where they operate stores and will be required to provide more localized experiences that engage the community. In an environment where regions are affected differently by the coronavirus, customers will expect more localized experiences.

What retail technologies will see adoption accelerated due to COVID-19?

JW: Already there is a major shift towards digital showrooms, 3D shopping environments and even digital fashion. Great examples of this in the fashion space include ByondXR and Fabrikant.

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