As a result of COVID-19, the world of retail is changing. Many businesses are suffering and won't reopen after coronavirus. However, many other businesses are thriving and growing in these times. Here are some of what we see for the future of retail in America, post-COVID.
It's Not Going Away
The rumors of retail's demise are greatly exaggerated. It's entirely true that many people who have never shopped online are now doing it, and it's equally true that many will continue doing it even when stores reopen and the virus threat fades. However, some products are still better bought in-person. At the same time, Americans love to shop, and it's hard to imagine them stopping. Retail is changing. Weak retailers are still in trouble. But retail will still be here when this ends.
Omnichannel Is The Only Channel
Even before coronavirus, retailers started offering curbside service or pickup counters inside their front doors. Clicks and bricks retailers integrated their websites and their stores, using each to support each other. This isn't a trend any more, it's a reality. Retailers will use their stores to support many different types of consumer. This includes not just turning traditional consumers into online shoppers, but also turning online shoppers into people who order online and pickup at the store (or have it delivered by a third-party service). This could mean needing to have each store take more space to store more items on site, completing the "last mile."
Frontage Matters More Than Ever
It's likely that we'll all want a little more personal space, even after the risk from coronavirus begins to die down. This means that having a store that is wide and shallow will serve two purposes. First, it will be better able to serve people who are non-traditional shoppers who either want to go right inside the door and pick up their items or who want to have their items brought out to them. More width means more doors and less time spent walking. Second, a wider store means that people who are traditionally shopping can come in, get what they want, check out, and leave with less contact with other shoppers and less risk of catching whatever bug arises after COVID-19.
One Ways and X's
Don't be surprised if some of the changes to store layouts continue. The one-way aisles and markings on the floor that keep people enforce social distancing. Stores may also adjust layouts to increase aisle width and find other ways to impose more separation as a result of changing sensitivities post-coronavirus.
What About Shoppertainment?
One of the saving graces of retail leading up to COVID-19 has been tenants that are either experience-based or that create experiential retail. As a result of social distancing and other shifts in the retail landscape, retail experiences will have to be compelling to continue to draw shoppers. For stores, the convenience of curbside pickup will reduce buzz, while venues like restaurants and movie theaters will have to try even harder to bring customers out of their dining rooms, man caves and she sheds into their establishments.
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