June 2, 2020

The new normal in retail experience

COVID-19 has brought the world, or what felt like the normalcy of everyday life, to a halt. Drastic measures have been taken by local, state and federal government to reduce the spread of the disease. This has resulted in non-essential stores closing to protect employees and consumers, shortened stores’ hours for increased cleaning procedures, and reduced restaurant operations to curbside-pickup only to reduce risk of exposure. With many restrictions starting to ease and retailers beginning to re-open, here’s how COVID has left an undeniable impact on the retail industry and a look at what’s next.

The financial repercussions

According to CBS News, in 2019 the retail industry brought in nearly $4 trillion and employed 52 million Americans. The National Retail Federation estimates 7 million retail jobs could be lost due to the pandemic.

The federation’s president and CEO, Matt Shay, said to CBS News, “As the retail industry goes, so goes the economy. And we need those businesses, large and small, to support those communities and to deliver products and services, but also to create employment opportunities for those millions of Americans who will be impacted if we don’t.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales have plummeted with store fronts closed. Sales decreased 16.4 % in April, with clothing and accessories stores dropping 79% from the previous month. Not surprising, grocery store sales rose 13% from the previous year.

And although the last few months have been bleak for the retail industry, there have been a lot of ways in which businesses have stepped up. They have supported their employees with increased bonuses, they’ve gone out of their way to create personal protective gear and they have made sure the most vulnerable in their communities were taken care of. We shared a few of our favorite feel-good retail stories in a blog last month.

The new brick-and-mortar retail experience in the coronavirus era

The new retail experienceWith many local and state governments easing stay-at-home orders, retailers are working to navigate uncharted territories and determine the new normal for the in-store experience. For many retailers, it isn’t business-as-usual. The experiential and social interactions we’ve come to expect with shopping will look drastically different than what our shopping experience looked like just three months ago.

For some, there will be new rules when they do open. Social distancing will remain intact in addition to many stores requiring employees to wear face masks and gloves. In some cases, stores like Menards and Costco will require all customers to wear a face mask in-store. Other stores like Lowes, while not requiring a face mask, is supporting social distancing with one-way aisles and removing store displays to provide additional room for shoppers.

The Kohl’s shopping experience will look a little different in the coming months as many of its stores reopen. Safety measures at their stores will include the following:

  • Plexiglass guards at registers
  • Employees will wear face masks
  • Sanitizing carts after each use
  • Signage to encourage social distancing
  • Fitting rooms will remain closed

Even with precautions in place, experts predict in-store traffic will not be the same prior to the pandemic given consumer concerns on the safety of in-store interactions. A Morning Consult study found that 24% of consumers said they wouldn’t feel comfortable shopping in a mall for more than six months after reopening, 16% said they would feel comfortable within three months and only 4% said they would within the month. Retailers are ready to welcome consumers back, but many may see that it will be a slow process back to normal.

Leaning on the experiences of others

While there are many uncertainties in the road ahead as retailers open their stores, the good news is there are numerous resources available to help make for an easier transition.

Many grocers and other essential retailers that have remained open throughout the pandemic have set a new standard in safety protocols. Grocery chain Kroger, has shared what it has learned in a downable blueprint for businesses. The blueprint is a resource for businesses of all sizes, in all sectors that includes recommendations, insights, best practices and creative assets to help navigate the reopening process.

The National Retail Federation is also providing guidance and tools to its members to help navigate. This includes a checklist of topics and considerations retailers should make before reopening as well as downloadable resources.

For additional COVID-19 updates on Brink’s U.S. operations, policies and procedures, visit the Update Center here.