10 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Retail After COVID-19
By Bob Phibbs
When major league baseball players return to their fields, that will be a huge marker of the beginning of the return to normalcy after COVID-19.
According to USA Today, MLB is considering having all 30 teams return to their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona to play their regular-season games but without fans in an effort to reduce travel and minimize risks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can imagine the impact that will have with people stuck at home; even if they don’t like baseball, I’m sure many will come to look forward to the distraction.
I particularly appreciate MLB’s creative ideas to get going even though none of us knows exactly what markers we will need to restart our economy.
The NYT reported several markerswe’ll need to see at the state level since governors will have the final say:
A state will need to be sure it could test every single person who might be infected and have the results in a timely manner.
There must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
While we’re nowhere near those levels of readiness, it does appear that the US is following China and Seoul in how the disease is playing out.
And while I could stay glued to the TV and hear pundits tell me over and over how worst-case scenarios could go for public health and our economy, I choose not to.
Here’s the thing I want anyone reading this to know...
The economy runs on hope.
Just like a couple deciding to have a child want to believe their offspring could grow up to be President, they also fear that child could become a drug dealer or homeless. Yet they choose hope.
It’s a choice.
And hope doesn’t come from someone else, it has to start with each of us.
Otherwise, what the hell is the point of getting up in the morning? Of anything?
Without hope, all is lost.
That’s why, after doing dozens of interviews in the last week where I’ve been quoted as the only hopeful resource in an article, I’m sharing these ten reasons I’m optimistic.
I hope you’ll read them and find the hope to salvage your job, your business, our world. None of those things will change if you figuratively curl up in a corner and say you can’t cope.
So now it’s time to put on your big boy or big girl pants and show yourself you can do it.
They’re waiting for you right now.
Your employees. Your customers. Your community.
10 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Retail After COVID-19
Retail employees are gaining respect. Albertson’s is pushing to classify its employees as first responders, giving them priority for testing and protective gear. The nation’s largest employers are turning to thermometers as a new line of defense against the coronavirus including Walmart, Home Depot, and Starbucks. While health experts warn temperature checks are an imperfect tool, these actions by employers to help keep their employees on-site and healthy. It is a visible change of the old model that employees were essentially disposable and could easily be replaced. And their communities are seeing them as heroes.
The spotlight is on small business. Shoppers are now realizing just how much they will miss them if they don’t reopen. We are far from out of the woods, but one thing is clear, buying local has been elevated. With the world of retail stores now closed, customers are aware of just how much they will miss those businesses if they don’t re-open and not just small retailers but downtown Main Streets and even shopping malls.
Change acceleration. While much has been written – almost ghoulishly- about the potential death of scores of retailers, this crisis will allow larger chains to initiate the very hard decisions of shrinking their footprint. I read one guy who said it was time to liquidate Macys, but I scoffed at the notion.
This is the brand that has its own parade through the greatest city in the US, and it’s covered live around the world. Macys is the centerpiece of Miracle on 34th Street, the movie that comes out each year at the exact moment people are shopping for the holidays. Macy’s isn’t going away. They, and other bloated retailers, can now simply close hundreds of stores they have been needing to. Yes, it will be painful, yes it will affect entire shopping districts, but it will allow them to live another day and do a better job. Can you imagine if the experience in Macys became like the ones in Miracle on 34th Street? Who’d be winning then? Everyone from shareholders, to employees, to you, the consumer.
This crisis will also help us get us past having too many retailers without enough demand to supply them all. Before another round of creative refinancing comes, the executives should have to answer these hard questions: Are we able to deliver a branded experience in this new world of consumerism and can we be brilliant on the basics to deliver it?
This crisis has unlocked creativity. Corporations world-wide have moved fast in the fight against the coronavirus. Dyson created a portable ventilator; brands as diverse as Nordstrom, Brooks Brothers, and Chanel are making masks, and a host of local distilleries have begun making hand sanitizer seemingly overnight. Innovation and creativity were unleashed as these brands easily saw the need. That same spirit of innovation will have to be used to engage a weary customer...and it won’t happen over Zoom.
Social media wins. While just a few months ago, we were railing on Facebook’s privacy – or lack thereof – Facebook has become the lifeline for many. Clearly, it isn’t just about what you had for lunch. The NYT reportedphone calls over Facebook’s apps more than doubled. In many countries, messaging on Instagram and Facebook soared by over 50 percent, while group calls in Italy jumped by more than 1,000 percent. People clicked repeatedly on virus news stories shown by the social network. Small businesses found doing LIVE videos provided a lifeline of business at a time many were closed to browsing.
Social distancing worked. For the most part, businesses and individuals chose to forgo going out so hospitals could administer to the sick and the curve could be flattened. Humanity, empathy, and compassion won out.
Retail employees will respect their jobs. With 16 million filing for unemployment in the US alone over the past 3 weeks and the unemployment rate jumping from 3% to 13%, many will feel grateful for being able to go back to work.
But retail stores will have to actually give a damn about customer service. Let’s face it, many retailers, small businesses and service providers got sloppy. They assumed, wrongly, that another 100, 1000, 10,000 people would be coming through their doors next week. Until they didn’t. Customer service will have to become something more than a set of values stuck on a wall. As customers return, they will need to be cared for in a more genuine and authentic way than just hearing a disengaged greeter at the door say, Can I help you find something?
Beginning of a new cycle of innovation. I heard about a restaurant limited to take-out only that wanted to bring the personality of their business back to life. They installed an app and two TVs – one with a camera focused on the kitchen and one over the cash register. Now whenever someone wants to order online, they can chat virtually with their regular servers in a two-way visual communication. We will have to find ways to connect and this will take training in a virtual world which is bound to last past our self-imposed lockups.
Another innovation that will become the norm is the contactless credit card as consumers and businesses understand that“Paper money can carry more germs than a household toilet.” Consumers will want to tap and pay using their credit cards or smartphones, and not insert or stripe them. And cash is definitely going away.
Online isn’t invincible. Yes, Wayfair sales got a 20% bump in March. Does that mean everyone suddenly decided to buy furniture online over brick and mortar? No, those competitors were shuttered, so Wayfair had a much more open space to play. Don’t forget, as CNBC reported last year, Wayfair spent $196 each on its 3.6 million new customers. While people love to talk about the brick and mortar retail apocalypse, everything is not rosy with online. Many of these disruptors will continue to be found not sustainable.
And while online shopping has increased substantially in the past few weeks, look closer at the numbers and you find that grocery is the clear leader because people have to, not necessarily because they want to, go online.
Get our weekly newsletter updates. Read our mailing consent T&Cs here
The 5 Shifts Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Making to Generate Up to 20% Higher Profits Every Month
Are you a hungry brick-and-mortar store owner who’s ready for a fresh, people-obsessed strategy? This training is for you if you want to grow your business using a powerful customer experience formula proven to make your cash register chirp.