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."
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:
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?
Okay, so that's where you were Before COVID-19.
Now, consider how COVID-19 has impacted each of these Lifestage groups.
Given that, what can you assume about each of these groups and their readiness to resume buying from you?
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 ready, willing 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, PYMNTS.com, April 27, 2020.
It has begun; the 4th quarter of the year. But sadly, Covid-19, the Delta variant, and now the Alpha variant will have huge influence.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of opinions and predictions about the economy, whether from Wall Street, the Fed, Capitol Hill, or your buying group or retail trade association.
Amidst all this, we were intrigued by a report that could be of far more value to retailers: results of a monthly survey of consumer concerns.* After all, for retailers, the shopper matters much more than the pundits on the business pages.
A few years ago, during a planning session in our office, we drew a quick diagram on a whiteboard. It showed three shapes.
Out of all of the potential things we could do, which ones truly warrant our time, energy, and resources?
That picture keeps coming to mind as the COVID-19 shutdown orders on retailers of "non-essential" goods are starting to be lifted.
Throughout the pandemics, many independent retailers successfully shed their "technology laggards" label, as they pivoted to embrace an array of digital tools.
Yet going forward, it is well to keep in mind what really matters to the customers. And it may not be more technology.
A recent survey* of more than 2,000 customers provides some interesting insights as to who shops where, why, when and how. It especially highlighted the differences between "large stores" and "smaller stores" (or as we view them, "specialty stores.")
Hmm. This suggests to us that shoppers essentially are treating large stores the same way they treat the internet:
Each of us, our households, businesses and communities are in different stages of shutdown due to the coronavirus.
While we cannot speak to when this will end, we do have some ideas for dealing with the "fog of uncertainty" that hangs over us all.
We hear it over and over. "Good business citizenship" matters to shoppers. Might Labor Day weekend be a good time to start getting the word out about your citizenship contributions?
Customers vote with their feet, their wallets, and their hearts, and increasingly choose those retailers who "do the right thing", whether it's how they source product, hire and pay employees, reduce environmental impacts, etc.
There are things that independent retailers do day in and day out, without perhaps even realizing how special they are!
Most retailers we know are "aw shucks" type people. It's charming, but, especially in today's world, your leadership can be a competitive edge! So, why keep it a secret?
Some thoughts from Nordstrom leadership that are spot on!
That's what Nordstrom President and Chief Brand Officer Pete Nordstrom told Puget Sound Business Journal columnist Patti Payne on April 23, 2020.
And what he succinctly stated is exactly the challenge – and opportunity – that is confronting all retail owners.
In order to answer whether you should re-open once you can, you first must be very confident in WHAT kind of retail operation you will be re-opening.
The only certainty of the aftermath of the pandemic is that everything will be different. Given that, what better time to re-imagine your business?
Still less than $1 a day! 👀