COVID 19: Facing the Harbinger of Change

A mere three years ago, no one could anticipate the changes that have been ushered in by COVID-19. While we have experienced pandemics in the past, none of them have triggered a near shut down of the world. Yet, here we are today, struggling with survival and an understanding of the magnitude of changes that are upon us.

How does one foresee such a situation let alone prepare for it? Yet this has happened in the near past. Who would have suggested the demise of such giants as Sears Roebuck, Penney’s, Nieman Marcus, Bed Bath and Beyond, MC Sports, Toys R’ Us, Sports Authority and hundreds of other retailers?

The world and commerce do not stand still for very long. In today’s technology driven world, change is ubiquitous. The sudden arrival of COVID-19 accelerated the rate of change to “immediate.” That’s not to say, it is necessarily permanent, but it is and will be pronounced and some of these changes will be long lasting.

Many of the failures mentioned above were exacerbated by technology and the growth of digital retailing. Online shopping has skyrocketed as the consumer found the speed, ease and immediacy of internet purchasing just perfect for people pressed for time. Suddenly, the world, not just your neighborhood, was the place to shop.

Ignoring eCommerce is dangerous

As recently as last year, retailers could reasonably choose between selling via the internet versus the physical store. Now, it’s almost an economic directive that the retailer communicates and sells using some sort of digital platform. It’s now the way of the world, and failure to fully embrace this reality is dangerous.

For those retailers who have pretty much ignored the internet as a means of selling, the time is now to make the move. But you can’t press a button and “presto” you’re in the internet business. Get professional help, reassess your merchandise mix, build a first-class website, create a fulfillment and shipping location and hire a professional to bring it all together.

Consider why so many retailers have failed while others have excelled in this current economic environment. The winners are those companies who have created forward looking plans postulating what will happen in the next five to ten years. Clearly the face of retailing has changed, and at an increasing rate.

Inventory management is crucial

What are the other changes likely to take place as a result of COVID-19? The use of “just in time delivery” will likely decline in favor of backup inventory for crucial merchandise. Methods of deliver into the consumers’ hands will modify as more people shop via the net and/or buy online but take delivery at the store by means of a pick-up window.

Forms of consumer advertising and communication will morph somewhat to include more online connection, use of social media and direct email communication from specific stores. Aggressive retailers will form closer alliances with key vendors to jointly promote to consumers.

Will the “store” as we now know it exist in 10 years? Yes, but the winners will make strident steps to aggressively incorporate online selling and merchandising into their online and physical presence. 

Look out into the future, recognize the metamorphosis taking place, make a plan and have at it. There’s a lot of money out there floating around. Act now to get your share and then some!