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.
What will the re-opening of brick and mortar retail look like?
SS: Slow, and uneven. Much has changed in a short period of time. There will be reticence on the part of many consumers to be among even small crowds in confined spaces. For many that will further be impacted by new financial realities of unemployment, focusing spending on basic essentials. Discretionary shopping for others may mean expanding their search in Target to include some new leisurewear. I fear malls and department stores will be the slowest coming back, many won’t. Those folks that are venturing out for retail therapy are likely to want to support surviving independent retailers.
What should retailers be doing now to prepare for the re-opening?
SS: Communicating with customers. Building trust around the retailer’s plans and actions in creating the safest, most secure customer experience possible. Upping the ante on omnichannel expenditure.
How will COVID-19 impact consumer behavior over the long term?
SS: This has become a transformative experience for many millions of Americans, one that has affected every aspect of their lives. Many people will come out of this feeling that they want more in their lives (family, self-determination, wellbeing) and need less (things). Many will wish to continue working from home, and employers will accommodate them based on a rise of employee efficiency (during the shelter-at-home) and corresponding opportunities for corporate and environmental conservation. This is likely to further impact many industries, among them, fashion, air travel, and auto sales negatively. Conversely it will likely benefit home improvement, and certain leisure industries that cater to the family. It’s also likely to support culinary interests of many kinds.
What will be the lasting effects of COVID-19 on brick and mortar retail?
SS: More of what had already been happening prior to the pandemic. Continued wash out of specialty chain retailers, particularly those that are fashion related. Substantial contraction, and liquidation within the mall-based department store segment, and an escalation in mall closures. Continued consolidation and market share growth amongst leaders Target, Walmart, and Costco (also Amazon). This will also provide new opportunities for strong, omnichannel, independent retailers who offer superior products, service and overall customer experience.
What retail technologies will see adoption accelerated due to COVID-19?
SS: AI technologies that enable high levels of customer personalization as well as in-store, digital empowerment tools to benefit both the customer and the brand ambassador. Self-checkout will continue to proliferate.