This Holiday season is bringing three big waves for retailers, in rapid succession. And each one requires a strikingly different management response.
Faced with the shipping delays (and surcharges), customers have turned to brick-and-mortar stores. The savvy retailers are ready for them.
That's why this is the time where merchants will have tucked away all the off-price merchandise, showcasing only the full margin goods. Unleash your merchant instincts! That sweater you've been offering at $60? Mark it to $65! Customers know that for Christmas to happen, they must and will buy now.
All that merchandise you tucked away during the first wave? Now it is back, with extra sharp markdowns.
Brace yourself. The rate of returns of merchandise purchased online is about 4 times higher than a retailer's typical return rate.
Come January, customers seeking to return or exchange merchandise they received (or self-gifted) at Christmas could feel like a stampede. And difficult for your staff to keep smiles on their faces. (Another good reason to wear a mask!)
Watch for the three separate waves. And don't get seasick!
As more stores are able to reopen, and more shoppers are willing to emerge, what will they encounter?
Yes, the shoppers WILL be returning. But boy, have they learned a lot during these pandemic times.
They are far more comfortable with online shopping, and in many cases, eager to continue that. And the convenience of "contactless" features like curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) are welcomed.
In fact, an extensive survey from McKinsey & Company* provides considerable detail about the newly-learned online shopping behaviors of customers, and their expectations of continuing to use these new-found skills.
Particular changes with presumed staying power:
But hold it. Wait just a minute. Our countervailing view is that the "homebody economy" will wear thin. And while customers do care even more about basics and value, especially when it comes to Holiday shopping, they will want "special."
Like every natural disaster, whether a massive storm, earthquake, wildfire, we all are victims of COVID-19.
Not all of us have suffered being infected by the virus. But, essentially everybody has suffered losses.
Few have been spared.
So, say you have re-opened your stores. Then what? Did the customers come back?
Or, were many of those who did show up just there to say "Hello!" And "We missed you!", but not to buy? Sigh.
We are not surprised. And here's why.
As the global efforts to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic continue, there is another curve that is being flattened. That would be the seasonality of retail sales.
And this may prove to be what really defines the New Normal for retailers.
The customary peaks of retail spending have been flattened.
Still less than $1 a day! 👀