Understanding the COVID-19 Impact on Retail Businesses

19 May 2020

No doubt that the retail industry was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The massive shifts in priorities and concerns are indicative of what industries are still managing to get by amidst the transition to the “new normal”. On the other hand, some industries are struggling to stay afloat due to these shifts in consumer behaviour.

The retail industry is one industry that adapted to the quickly shifting landscape brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, it also is going through brand new struggles. Consumers may not realize it, but their actions and habits towards retail businesses helped in both the boost and decline of particular areas in the industry. Here are a few insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the retail industry.

A Paradigm Shift

The retail industry encompasses everything from electronics, groceries, furniture and wellness. We can see which aspects of the industry are managing to get by amidst constrained suppliers and disrupted demand. According to a report from StrategyAnd, the food, grocery and wellness industries saw increased growth during the outbreak. Another report from GrowByData reiterates this, showing a 53% and 48% growth rate within these two industries. This should certainly come as no surprise as more consumers opted to stock up on various essentials during the quarantine period.

Online sellers made the shift to prioritizing essential goods.

At the same time, both reports also show declines in retail industries like apparel, the arts and electronics. As priorities shifted and services only focused on “essential items” during this pandemic, it was apparent they would struggle greatly. Additionally, many brick and mortar stores are feeling the effects of the disrupted demand due to limited reach and supply.

The Road To Recovery

So where does that leave us? As with most things, this outbreak is only temporary and will eventually subside. That means returning to usual operations under what can be called the next normal. While there are still many unknown factors, there are also emerging trends on how consumer behaviour will evolve once this period passes. In an effort to recover from it, companies can look at the following approaches.

Opportunities Arising

We mentioned last week that the COVID-19 outbreak revealed vulnerabilities for some companies that affected how they operate. We also talked about how these challenges also brought about new opportunities for them to change and develop as part of what is to come. The retail industry can assess and define what roles, approaches and functions are more required, especially those that favour modern solutions over antiquated ones.

Leverage An Online Presence

One of the things we’ve seen during this outbreak period is the importance of contactless, online transactions. Companies that have strong online presences withstood some of the worst parts of this outbreak as a result.

Considering a digital approach for businesses that need it will help them recover from the effects of the outbreak and ensure they are prepared for future retail trends.

Increase Flexibility Through Digitalization

More than anything, a digital approach will help businesses become more flexible. As newer technologies begin to translate into better productivity, expect to see more of it in the coming months. Prior to the outbreak, many businesses were already looking at this approach as part of their overall strategy for 2020 and beyond.

More companies are seeing the effectiveness of technology’s flexibility.

Integrating offshore teams with their local ones, for instance, helped them cover vital roles while also allowing them to explore new opportunities to expand. Though many strategies were put on hold due to the outbreak, allowing for more flexibility in roles and strategies will greatly help with the recovery process.

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