What does ‘new retail’ look like?

We’re not sure, and neither is anyone else. But scenario planning is the new black, especially for the retail industry. The way I am thinking about it is, it’s a bit like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. The basic premise is that at a point in the story the reader chooses (like the red or blue pill Neo chooses from in The Matrix) each scenario plays out differently. More endings to explore if you’re a kid who likes reading. More scenarios to cover if you’re trying to read the tea leaves of the future at the moment.

Historically, global changes like wars, pandemics and significant shifts in technology, shift our perspective and alter our behaviour. They create new normalities. My husband has been reminded of an anecdote from his grandfather; ‘Before the war, no-one did business on the telephone. After the war, they did.’ My mother has described her childhood as having two timeframes ‘before the war’ and ‘after the war’. It’s a simple way of looking at things but, it helps as a marker. Before COVID-19 and after, what is on the other side of this?

What will the new normal look like?

The only thing I feel confident about is that we’re not going back to things as they were. We can’t just turn it back on.

What seems likely is that there will be phasing of changes in rules.

What does this mean for the Retail Industry?

As we see some places slowly ease restrictions, we will see a shift in how retail functions. At the moment, we’re all quite concerned about health and safety and trying to keep an appropriate amount of distance between one another.

  • Could these concern about health and safety translate into an ongoing unwillingness to being in crowded spaces?
  • Could it mean that we refocus on our own supply chain and we want to know better where things have come from?
  • Will this mark a shift towards more local manufacturing and have us turn our back on the global supply chain that we have been so dependent on?

Health and Safety

Health and Safety concerns; could turn into limits on numbers of people in stores/ restaurants. My first-hand experience at a couple of national retailers, having to line people up outside the store to wait to get in. How do we manage this in a safe way that allows for enough physical space? Some possible scenarios: we may see ‘planned’ shopping windows. Booking ahead for your local centre, virtual queuing from an app. All of this requires some co-operation from shoppers, retailers and centres as well as technology that will support it.

Supply Chain

Supply Chain transparency; food safety and tracking could increase as a customer priority, as we focus on health. Does the tracking and provenance of food become just as important as the price and quality – specifically for export markets?

Local Manufacturing

Local manufacturing; there’s no denying that it’s super helpful to be able to make, grow and package things yourself especially when the borders are closed. More likely than a pendulum swing to locally manufacturing everything, it’s possible that creating multiple supply chain options to move between, will allow retailers more flexibility in different scenarios.

It’s not possible to cover all scenarios for all retailers here but consider these ideas and how they might translate to your business. If you need some help to work through the planning/scenario-building part of this, we’re here – get in contact today.