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Retailing Post-Coronavirus: What to Expect

An altered landscape will emerge for both consumers and retailers after Covid-19 passes. Here’s a look at some long-lasting effects to plan for.

The cost in human suffering and loss of our social lives will leave an indelible mark that will likely last for years to come. Although deep in shock now, we will eventually accept the surreal images around us today — panic buying, empty store shelves, closing schools and non-essential stores, empty restaurants, cancelled sporting and entertainment events, working from home, social distancing, and many other disruptions.

However, the pandemic will ebb in coming months and normal life will return. When it does, expect to see an altered landscape for consumers and retailers with some parallels to previous shattering events and some that are unique to Covid-19.

Post-Pandemic Retailing

Here’s what I believe retailers should plan for:

  • Greater focus on clean and sanitized stores, which will compel retailers to adjust store operation tasks, KPIs, labor allocation and task management software
  • Health and wellness products, already one of retail’s major trends, will emerge vastly stronger and become important to retail segments not currently associated with the trend, such as convenience stores, dollar stores, and athleisure clothing to ensure protection in gyms and yoga studios.
  • Traceable-to-source supply chains so consumers can judge for themselves that their food, clothing and other things they bring into their homes are safely made and transported. This will have a big impact on promises made and labeling.
  • Home delivery of food and products, already a major trend in retail, will become a deeply embedded way of life. Retailers who have been slow to make this transition will suffer until they catch up.
  • Re-energized focus on automated stores will drive implementation of self-service ordering, self-checkout, and scan-and-go technology.
  • Surging retail bankruptcies and store closings, which will expand the consumer base and real estate options for financially healthy brands that remain standing.
  • E-commerce, already a major force in retail, will accelerate its two-decade trajectory to achieve peak market share of the shopper's wallet.
  • Consumer goods and apparel retailers will move manufacturing out of risky environments and closer to home.
  • Working from home will replace live meetings and cause a cascade of related issues, such as the need to increase security software and architecture to manage the sensitive flow of data outside the home office.
  • Robotics used in warehouses and stores, already a growing trend, will expand as a sanitary alternative to traditional methods and a way to continue operating when the workforce is constrained.
  • Increased role of Human Resources departments and communications software to deliver clear and timely guidance to store managers and associates to ensure safety and compliance.
  • Ghost kitchens, already a growing trend, will boom as shoppers social distance themselves from restaurants and markets.

Many other lasting effects of Covid-19 are possible and I would love to hear your thoughts for a follow up column. Please send them to [email protected] and I will aggregate the best of the best.

No doubt there will be life and retailing after Covid-19, but it won’t be the same. The coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest events to occur in the 21st century and it will leave an indelible mark on how we live and conduct business for many years to come.  

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