From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

Which Shoppers Will Be the First to Emerge?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly gained the respect of the general public. 

Surveys continue to show that, while folks are eager to be able to resume moving about, they do not expect to resume their pre-pandemic discretionary shopping and dining activities anytime soon. They are awaiting effective treatments or, even better, a vaccine. 

Main Street restauranteurs and retailers understand that, according to survey results reported April 27.* In fact, these owners anticipate it could  take another eight months – that is, most of the year – for consumer demand to reach the so-called "New Normal." 

  • That is consistent with our expectations as well. When pulling together your new financial plans, we've suggested that you assume that July-August-September sales will be off 50%, and that Holiday would at best be 30% below last year. 

But of course, any sales forecast must start with the customer. We believe you should be prepared for a markedly-different "best customer" post-COVID-19. 

To prepare for that, we urge you to think about your customers in terms of Lifestages. That is, people's spending is driven less by their personal demographics (age, gender, income, etc), and more by the Stage of Life of each household. Consider these:

  • SINKs and DINKs. [Single Income, No Kids, Dual Income No Kids.]
  • Households with Children 12 & Under
  • Households with Teenagers
  • Empty Nesters (or as we refer to some of them, "Reborn SINKs and DINKs")
  • Retireds/Widows/Widowers

Can Lifestages help explain your customer base? 

Even more important, shouldn't Lifestages help streamline your recovery planning?

Think about it. Don't worry about being precise; we're talking Big Picture here. Maybe involve some of your key staff people too, to get their ideas. (Or even, check into the data available in your POS system. You might be surprised what's available there....)

Of these Lifestage groups, which two (maybe three) have historically been the most important customer groups for your stores?

  • Using your best guesstimates, what portion of your total sales previously has each group represented?
  • What are the major merchandise categories purchased by each Lifestage group?

Okay, so that's where you were Before COVID-19. 

Now, consider how COVID-19 has impacted each of these Lifestage groups.

  • For instance, the Households with Children, whether 12 & under or Teenagers, have been dramatically impacted by school closures. 
  • And with uncertainty surrounding when child care facilities may be able to re-open, having kids at home may continue to be very disruptive. (And could impair the availability of the parents to resume working.)
  • Meanwhile, the Empty Nesters and the Retireds have been categorized as Most At-Risk for the virus, and potentially subject to on-going restrictions as the Stay at Home orders are lifted.

Given that, what can you assume about each of these groups and their readiness to resume buying from you? 

  • It's not what folks will WANT to spend money on; what are they WILLING and ABLE to spend money on? (It's called "discretionary spending" for a reason.)

Your "New Store Opening"
The COVID-19 pandemic is not forever; it will subside at some point. 

Meanwhile, as we emerge from the Stay At Home restrictions, it will feel like you are opening a new store, with a different mix of customers.

Importantly, you still have lead time to make the appropriate tweaks and adjustments. Your stores and your merchandise must reflect which Lifestage group of customers will be readywilling and able to shop your stores.

Like it or not, the pandemic has greatly affected everyone's priorities. Your perseverance and staying power will be tested. Keep the perspective; we wish you well. 

Why Re-Opening the US Economy Should Be About Reinventing It. Karen Webster,, April 27, 2020.

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