Unfortunately, a crisis like we are facing can reveal as much as it devastates. Some retailers were better positioned to pivot than others and those retailers have continued to see significant increases in sales over the past several months.
But let’s not forget, in March overall U.S. retail sales including online transactions dropped by a staggering 8.7%. This was the largest monthly decline on record since 1992. April saw an even greater plunge with sales dropping another 16.4%, according to US Census reports.
As the economy continues to open, the need for deliberate and consistent measures to promote social distancing and the wearing of facial coverings will likely remain in place for many months to come. Of course, this creates some obvious friction within the retail industry as some customers choose to avoid going out due to new COVID-19 requirements associated with shopping.
Even with these continued challenges retail has in no way been dealt a fatal blow. Some companies are even thriving during these dark and challenging times. Innovation abounds as some retailers have pivoted to “new retail” initiatives by turning traditional salespeople into livestream broadcasters on social media, each managing their own virtual merchandise. Another cosmetics retailer has opted to go online full force promoting products through multiple livestreaming platforms and several social media apps.
The resilience of companies like these is due to one simple fact: they have been willing to transform their traditional business model rapidly to leverage a new set of digital practices that continue to meet their market and customer demand. Put simply, retailers that will continue to thrive must be willing to transform what worked yesterday to survive the economy of this pandemic today.
Digital platforms will not take the place of brick-n-mortar retail, but the coming year will challenge every brand to think differently than they have before.