Like all other industries, the Covid-19 crisis has shaken up the world of retail, forcing businesses into an unprecedented situation. While stores such as supermarkets have seen a rise in spending, many other retailers, brands, manufacturers and designers within the industry are in a state of limbo as we wait on government announcements to inform us on how and when we will be reopening. Never in our lifetime has the industry faced such challenging times, where the way that we do business has been turned upside-down, leaving customers wondering if and how they will be able to access the high street in the future.
There is a need for synergy and collaboration of ideas within the retail sector. To help with this, we conducted research among a number of key names in the retail marketing space, including, brands, design agencies and manufacturers, to learn their views on what the next steps for retail should look like. From this we have been able to contextualise the key themes and findings, including concerns and challenges that businesses are facing in the current climate.
Rest assured, it is not all doom and gloom. The industry has been told to expect a spending boost post lockdown, known as ‘revenge spending’, which has been seen across the Far East. The term refers to an overindulgence in retail therapy by consumers who have missed visiting their favourite stores during lockdown. Thankfully, this mirrors the consensus from our research, that budgets are only delayed for now, with a view of this weight being lifted upon reopening. But in order to reach this point, industry leaders need to consider various factors before opening their doors to the public.
Permanent changes in retail
According to our research, it is clear that we cannot expect retail to simply return to what we know as normality. We expect to see an increase in digital in store experiences, driven by personal tech, to deliver an interactive, yet safe, customer experience.
Success requires detailed planning
Brands, manufacturers and agencies need to begin planning now, if they have not already. It can be difficult to plan effectively while navigating the uncertainty around government restrictions. The sector should consider taking a phased approach to the design, manufacture and implementation of in-store installations. If your project is global then you need to make your plans even more flexible to accommodate reopening’s at different times.
Going forward, hygiene will be the number one priority for the industry. The first and second please of reopening will hold hygiene at its core, meaning that displays and products will not be handled in the same way as before, making innovations in tech crucial to ensure customer and staff safety. This will be a key consideration for fashion in particular due to the nature of the product and the need to physically try on products when shopping. We expect to see AR and VR play a part in the solution to this challenge, building on already existing virtual shopping experiences.
Our journey back to the high street will be no mean feat and it is certain that we will encounter new challenges along the way. But that means that we need to act now as, even in times of change, we need continuity to bring us forward. We can learn valuable lessons from our oversees counterparts that are in the midst of lifting lockdown, learning from their mistakes and capitalising on their successes. There is a future for the high street and although it may seem like a different world right now, we have the opportunity to make it even better than before.