According to Statista, global e-commerce has jumped by 6% between January 2020 and March 2020. I’m quite sure that no one is shocked by this at all. With COVID-19 effectively leading to lock-downs all over, consumers have taken to online shopping instead of making trips to physical stores.
But what about now? Since May, different countries in Europe have been gradually and cautiously lifting restrictions — beginning with small stores — and gradually leading up to shopping malls and businesses in which physical contact is likely; therefore the risk of infection is greater (consider hair and beauty salons, as well as restaurants). All of these places of work are opening with new guidelines in place to minimize risk.
In many cases the damage to offline retail caused by COVID-19 has lead to large scale-downsizing. According to the USA Today 25000 stores may be on their way to limiting their branches or to closure. This list includes retailers that we all know and love, like J.C. Penny, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, who have all recently filed for Chapter 11. What’s interesting to note is — according to Coresight — it is expected that 55%-60% of all store closures will be mall-based. In light of COVID-19 this is not surprising, these have consistently been the last places of retail businesses to open.
Notwithstanding the pandemic, the need for shopping malls to reframe the shopping experience in order to remain relevant is not a new thing. The pandemic seems to have accelerated the process of do or die for these large physical retail structures. While many malls are already reframing, and in many places integrating e-commerce and experiential elements; smaller and local stores and independent retailers have maintained their immediate relevance.
However, they too should not rest on their laurels. Smaller brick-and-mortar retailers also need to adapt to the “new normal”, and the need to reframe. But, for now — lucky for them — consumers who have been at home for a while, are restless and excited to get out. While consumers remain wary of infection, they still want to make consumer decisions “in real life” and not just by click. The proximity of these small stores is significant. The fact that they are local allows the consumers to advocate for supporting their local economy and community. They are closer to home, and give consumers the confidence that the business owners are making an effort to safeguard them from infection.
The ability of these local stores to play a significant role in post COVID-19 retail recovery, should not go unnoticed by leaders of the urban logistics industry. They should be leveraged in this paradigm to provide solutions and services aiding and improving the supply chain and fulfilling consumer demands. This will help not only strengthen their positioning in their local communities, but also provide alternatives to the ever-burgeoning challenges of logistics.
The local brick-and-mortar retail stores in your neighbourhood, community and by your place of work, are ideally placed for now. If they play their cards well, and continue to make steps to digitise their businesses and offer additional services to the consumers, they will remain relevant for many, many years to come; pandemic or not.