Retailing in a time of crisis
Retailing around the world has found itself in the front-line in meeting the challenge of COVID-19.
For much of lockdown, retail was divided. There were those deemed to be “essential” services, such as food and pharmacy, who could keep their stores open to meet the extraordinary uplift in demand. Then there were all other retailers, who found themselves classified by the unfortunate term “non-essential”, which saw hundreds of thousands of stores across the world closed for weeks and months.
How retail has been able to respond to the dislocation to life, commerce and the economy that followed is the focus of a series of special reports that the World Retail Congress has been publishing regularly since the beginning of April. With Retailing in a time of crisis, we wanted to bring together the experiences and insights of senior retailers and industry experts to build the picture of the fast-moving events on the ground.
It is fascinating to see how retail has been united by similar experiences across the world – from China to the Americas. Retailers went into sheer survival mode when the virus hit, first building new strategies to cope with the surge in online demand, and then finding ways to safely open their stores again. But, we can also see differences in the way retailers innovated and developed new solutions, products and services to meet their customers’ needs.
It has now been more than five months since the crisis. So what does our latest report tell us about the key issues facing retail leaders? There are four key takeaways:
- Retailers have learned how to think and act differently.
From securing business and working with suppliers and supply chains, to protecting employees and customers. For many retailers, they now understand what “omnichannel” really means in being able to serve their customers quickly and efficiently.
- Retail leaders and their teams have recognised the importance of resilience and agility.
In this report, we interview CEOs who see that this crisis is creating a new kind of retail leader.
- Retailers have moved through the survival phase and can begin to see what the new retail landscape will look like, and identify what strategies and investments are now required.
It is an acceleration of change and, in particular, online growth.
- The final insight is the importance of trust for brands.
Consumers are turning to retailers and brands who they believe match their own values; have delivered what they want, and have demonstrated that they are helping their wider communities and society.
This reinforces how retail is truly in the front-line in helping countries through this extraordinary time.
World Retail Congress has launched Connected – a three-day, free virtual event from 15-17 September 2020 that will examine what the acceleration of change across the industry means for the future of retailing. Register today if you are interested.
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