What’s to come in our next world at retail?
We know that retail has been shuttered during the pandemic and eCommerce has grown leap years inside of a few months. Retail shifted to eCommerce: order on-line or buy online, pick up at store (BOPIS). Groceries were delivered by delivery services and everything shifted into a different world of buying goods and services. Travel stopped, airlines were decimated and products like jewelry, apparel and accessories (except masks) were not the place to be invested in. Restaurants were shut down, opened up and shut down again. We bought more toilet paper, disinfectant and paper towels than anyone could ever imagine. We bought more vitamins and immunity solutions than ever before and all the cold and flu remedies flew off the shelves. The automobile industry stopped, and the used car market exploded. The strangest things happened.
We learned how to cook, we learned how to read and play instruments and we learned how to workout at home. The hardest thing of all is that we had kids to care for instead of sending them off to school. Moms took the brunt of this pandemic. While working at home, cooking, cleaning and teachings kids trying to get outside just for a moment for a break was difficult. Many moms will never return to work. Obviously, one could go on and on as to what transpired. All of this changed the retail market. So, what’s next for 2021?
eCommerce will roar on for the next 6 months. The pandemic will filter out and we will crawl out from underneath the rocks and come into the light of a new and different world. I believe we will take our streets back form the Amazon, UPS and FedEx delivery employees who have cluttered up our doorsteps with boxes of stuff. On my street one cannot even drive down because of all the deliveries being made. Who are those imposter-like delivery people lurking around the neighborhood stealing things off our doorsteps? This too will change as we come out and begin a new normal.
David Calhoun, the CEO of Boeing, and Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, are banking on big changes coming in travel this summer. Ryanair bought seventy five (75) 737 Max jets. International Airlines Corp. (Air Lingus, British Airways, Iberia) bought two hundred (200) 737 Max jets for the boom in travel coming soon. Travel will explode this summer. We want to get out! People will return to retail in the second half of the year. Restaurants will jump (what’s left of them) in summer. The basic goods we all bought will remain in our pantries, closets and attics for the next two years as we will begin to shop for things we haven’t been able to for a year or more. We will return to a different normal after the first quarter of retail bliss.
The Ugly American will come crawling out of the rocks into the light after a very hard January and February. We love our American privilege of Christmas and New Years celebrations and we will pay the price in January and a bit through February. March will be a big recovery month and April and May we will be back ready for the summer start in June. Doubt and trust will be restored with the advent of an available selection of vaccines. The herd immunity process will be well on its way of knocking this pesky virus down. Shopping, travel and events will be top of mind as the new normal will posture itself. Although, some of us will remain in hiding and some of us will refuse the vaccines for whatever reason and some could see a self-demise.
Things like jewelry, cosmetics, antiaging products and accessories will be hunted down because we are “going out”. Outdoor essentials for travel will be sought after as well as, believe it or not, luggage. Even cocktail dresses and shoes for style (not slumpy comfort) will be bought. We will be poised for that “night on the town” Retail will come back with a vengeance in the second half of the year. Albeit different, it will be complemented with scaled down offerings but those that are cherished and sought after.
We love to shop! We love to eat out and be served! We love to travel! We are thirsty for that night out of bonding with humans. Theaters, concert halls, ballets, operas, and sports venues will all come back. Culture will be reintroduced into our lives again. So, what can this mean? Online purchases will tail off as we begin to shop. 70% of Americans will hit the stores in search of that lost feeling of “the treasure hunt”. What will be different is SKU reduction and inventory in stores. We can try things on again and have that item delivered same day or next. Retail employees will actually be helpful as they invite us into a different environment: one mixed with the warm human aspect and a technological self-serve system that helps us understand what we are purchasing and what different color or size may look like on us.
The human aspect will be more like the treatment we used to enjoy many years ago, at stores like Nordstrom, where people are there to help us with our “treasure hunt” We will not be left alone, as retail MUST create a new and inviting experience for us to feel safe, secure and mostly welcomed to the new experience. Our new shopper will actually have more time to shop. The kids will be back in school and (s)he will no longer be commuting hours to and from work. The retail environment will become a thirst-quenching destination. Gone will be the blocky structures of displays and store fixtures needed to get us in and out of stores fast, as we foraged for essentials. What will take their place will be soft and inviting shapes of fixtures and displays to help create a WOW factor in the new retail environment. Use of experiential technology will be needed for those who don’t want help from the inviting retail store employees. QR codes will come back to vogue as beacons for information and product demonstration. Vibrant and tasteful signage will be abundant and needed to guide the new shopper though the hunt and assure the shopper that they are safe and secure. Safety concerns will be solidified with our shoppers as we still will be a bit reluctant to go “all in” for our hunt.
These will be exciting times for retailers and shoppers. We get to create a new normal and drive to bring experiences that attract our shoppers and bring them back for more. Oh, and by the way, all of those campers and trailers will be coming back for sale at huge discounts as we come to trust our environment at home. Plus, those beds hurt like hell and dumping the black tank during a cold morning will be a thing of the past. We can get back to traveling the way we used to enjoy.
Soon we will get to enjoy the brave new world!
Wash your hands, wear your mask, and keep it separated.