Will the retail experience survive after COVID-19?

The British public has now been urged to support the economy by visiting local bars and shops. A far cry from the earlier plea to stay at home. Further to this, it’s now been announced that wearing a mask will become compulsory in all shops and supermarkets from Friday 24th July. As expected, this has divided public opinion and sparked a debate over whether the high street shopping experience is worthwhile to some consumers.

Retailers have had to think fast. They’ve had to consider what constitutes the safest and most business-savvy way to make sure the retail experience is still engaging and profitable. All whilst facing fierce competition with their online counterparts. The question is, will the high street survive?

Will the retail experience survive after COVID-19?

...stores will need to find ever creative ways to get the footfall over the threshold

Tuning into customers.

First and foremost, retailers will be reliant on their frontline staff feeling safe coming back to work. Secondly, they’ll need to tune in to the needs and wants of each customer more than ever before. While some may be happy to go back to normal retail interactions, others may be anxious and uncomfortable entering the premises. This may be particularly apparent in stores where significant changes have had to be made to the store map and with staff wearing PPE.

Retail staff will also have to make the most of upselling to any footfall they do get. According to a YouGov survey, 42% of the people they surveyed said their spending was down since the pandemic. It will be more important than ever for retailers to maximise the spending potential for every customer that enters the store.

In-store incentives and solutions.

To compete with their digital rivals, stores will need to find ever creative ways to get the footfall over the threshold. We’ve previously discussed the value of creative experiential retail spaces and how they can massively influence buying decisions. Retailers need to not only be engaging but simultaneously reassuring, providing a ‘safe space’ for their customers, For most, this is a brand new consideration.

Some stores have already invested in making their customer experience as self-serviceable as possible. For example, introducing more tablets and self check out points - increasing the store’s overall takings whilst still reducing the risk of contact between staff and customer.

Prepare for the long game.

Unfortunately, none of us will know the full ramifications of COVID-19 on the UK economy for some time. While some stores have welcomed back their supportive customers, others have seen a dramatic reduction in spontaneous footfall. In these uncertain economic times, it’s critical that businesses prepare themselves for any eventuality.

With historically huge shopping days like Black Friday and the run up to Christmas yet to come this year, it’ll be interesting to see whether that end of year period will be enough to make up for these lost months of trading for many retailers.

At Parable, we work with retailers to create innovative, strategic and engaging spaces. You can view examples of our work here. The high street has faced many obstacles in the past and has bounced back many times. Will it have the power to withstand one of the greatest economic challenges in history?

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