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The New High Street: How The Retail Landscape Is Changing

Industry Trends | By | 23 Jun 2020 | 4 minute read

Key retail reopening trends in a post-COVID-19 world

Since COVID-19 struck the global retail sector in March 2020, the industry has been left reeling in the wake of a significant shift. Safety is now the #1 priority for every company in the world, and the seismic shift has forced businesses to quickly re-evaluate their priorities.

It’s clear that the landscape has been changed forever; but how can retailers ride the crest of the wave of such dramatic change and continue to provide a more secure in-store experience?

Now, as retailers consider how to find their edge in a brand new retail landscape, we’ve put together a list of comprehensive resources with trends and insights to help you make safety your edge.

How has the retail industry been affected by COVID-19?

Physical shopping is hindered

Clothing giant Primark (UK and US-based) has gone from making over $800 million sales a month (£650 million/1,190,000AUD to nothing since the COVID-19 forced closures of its stores.

Retail sales in Australia fell by a record 17.9% in April, at the height of the lockdown. US retail sales also dipped sharply by 16.4%. The effects of COVID-19 have contributed to a record monthly fall in retail sales of nearly a fifth,” ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics.

As incomes dip, community, wellbeing and family takes the spotlight

The economic impact of the pandemic that has tipped the world into recession means that many are focused on spending to meet their needs, rather than their desires. People are not spending money anymore — at least, not on anything that isn’t deemed “essential”. Instead, consumers have a renewed focus on health and wellbeing, family time, and intentional living.

Supply chains in chaos

The lockdown didn’t just affect the retail industry. It affected industries across the board, including manufacturing and logistics. With many factories shutting down to prevent the spread of the virus, this created a knock-on effect as demand for retail goods soared, but supply was dwindling because of the unreliable supply chains.

The way forward for retailers

As physical businesses reopen, retailers will likely continue to invest in eCommerce to reach more customers, support those who are still wary of congregating in public spaces, and use it as a way to complement an omnichannel shopping experience.

Digital is your friend

There are some retailers that have grown in strength since the pandemic. E-commerce businesses who have seen a surge in sales are now able to use their profits to create physical high street stores in which tech is the foundation of the shopping experience.

The new Amazon Fresh retail stores in London are till-free, with customers able to walk out without paying thanks to Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ tech, which uses a system of cameras, sensors and algorithms to track the items a shopper picks up and bill them automatically. 

Business Live reports that some fashion stores ‘ are already exploring virtual try-on facilities, using customer ‘avatars’ to model clothes, while others are adopting algorithm-powered online personal stylist services’.

These novel shopping experiences embedded with tech can certainly boost interest with customers, as well as significantly reducing the coronavirus risk in a physical store.

Making safety retailers’ launchpad

But it’s not just about customer-facing tech.

Safety is now the pivotal concern of all retailers, which means stores have to be considerate of the impact of both footfall and hygiene concerns. 

Even though the vaccine is now prevalent in most countries, the risk is still there – so technology is critical for more robust operations.

Adapting to the ‘new high street’ means embracing technology as a facet of day-to-day retail life. Never underestimate the value of simple, effective processes enabled by tech. With an easy-to-use mobile app, staff can digitize checklists, discuss areas of concern, take photos of poorly managed areas, and assign actions to other members of the team at a distance. All staff contribute with this online tool, and all staff become accountable for staying safe.

Tech also allows for more data on safety procedures. The more data your store can access, the better. Retailers can utilise their safety inspection checks to publish marketing information on high hygiene and safety performance, using the figures as a springboard for brand loyalty.

Spread out with social distancing

Social distancing requirements have presented unique challenges for retailers. It’s changing the way we shop. Customers are beginning to get used to queuing outside on top of social distancing floor markers to enter a shop, being greeted by a people counter when entering a shop, and exiting via a different entrance.

There is still work to be done for retailers to encourage this behavior.
Floor markers will need to be installed, posters communicating
the maximum capacity inside the shop at any time, boarding up excess doorways, and adding a new rotation for staff — “door duty”.

As retailers use tech to get back to business, we’ve put together a list of comprehensive free checklists to help you lay the foundation for a safer in-store experience.

For more about how retailers can keep customers safe in a post-COVID-19 world, read SafetyCulture’s comprehensive report for retailers.

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