After everything businesses have gone through over the past two years, there is little doubt that the retail landscape has altered. Storefronts have felt the impact, industry giants have fallen and small businesses have sadly closed their doors forever. Many employees are still working remotely, and businesses have changed how they deliver their products and services to their customers.
The big question now is what does the future look like for retail? What exactly has changed due to COVID-19 for business owners. The key for growth, of course, is knowing where you’ve been so you know how to best adapt and move forward. Here are some of the biggest takeaways retailers should be aware of.
E-commerce: Bigger Than Ever
While e-commerce has been on the rise for years and picking up speed, nothing has launched it ahead of its time quite like the early days of the pandemic. The sudden surge in demand for household goods like toilet paper and cleaning supplies led to widespread shortages. Empty shelves forced retailers to begin rationing certain products and scramble to restock others.
Once the first wave of panic buying subsided, retailers had to figure out how to manage the new hurdle of mitigating loss amid shutdowns. These shelter-in-place mandates forced consumers and retailers to turn their attention to ecommerce. In June 2020 alone, online sales in the U.S. totaled $73 billion – a 76.2% year-over-year increase.
Creative warehousing has also been a product of the pandemic. As more and more shopping shifts online, the demand for warehouse space has only grown more desperate, as a larger number of retailers ramp up e-commerce operations and maintain an excess of inventory. Where traditional warehousing methods have fallen short, “dark stores” have filled the void.
Warehouse shortage isn’t the only pressure that has led to the trend of converting shuttered retail stores into micro-fulfilment centers. According to Kyle Krug, director of marketing and communications at Legacy Supply Chain Services, “As businesses continue to evolve their omnichannel supply chains, there are new pressures to deliver faster and at lower costs than ever before. Other contributing factors include forced expansion as a result of uncertainty around trade tariffs, contraction of distribution center space usage, and inventory buildup as a result of COVID-19.”
Safety Above All Else
A big positive that has come out of this situation is a larger sense of community. Many businesses across the country have come together to collaborate and support one another during these uncertain times. Business owners have looked to the needs of their teams and the concerns of their customers. The safety first trend has inspired many to get back to the needs of the individual. Not just for their product and service needs, but on a deeper level. Ensuring that, as a brand, they provide a safe and comfortable experience.
Yes, COVID-19 threw some major, unprecedented challenges at the retail industry. But it has also become clear over the months just how resilient and determined these merchants really are. How willing they are to adopt new solutions and processes to keep their customers satisfied and their doors open. And just how supportive and dedicated they are to their communities.
Blair Thomas has been a music producer, bouncer, screenwriter and for over a decade has been the proud Co-Founder of eMerchantBroker, the highest rated high risk merchant account processor in the country. He has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a hurricane, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. He currently calls Thailand his home with a lifetime collection of his favorite books.