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EDITORIAL How retailers are planning their post-lockdown store reopenings

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we’re reporting as more retailers start to think about how their businesses will trade in a post-lockdown world. 

Last week we saw B&Q start to reopen its stores, classed as essential, for customer visits after working out how to make those visits safer. Since then, the British Retail Consortium has issued a guide for non-essential retailers thinking ahead to how they will be able to make their shops safe for their customers once government restrictions start to be eased. John Lewis has said it’s getting its stores ready to start reopening from mid-May, so that it will be able to move quickly once restrictions do come to an end. Games Workshop says today, as we report in our coronavirus rolling news story, that it’s starting to open its sales channels including shops in those markets where that’s possible. Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer says it’s radically rethinking the future in a ‘never the same again’ strategy that we’ll get more details of next month. 

Wickes stores, meanwhile remain closed, and while the retailer has posted rising sales for the first three months of the year, businesses across its parent company Travis Perkins saw their sales reduced to a third of last year’s levels in the first three weeks of April. One analyst suggests the retailer should now be thinking about how to open its stores, especially since they fall in the essential retail category that could already be open.

But all of these traders are rightly moving slowly: getting it right is about prioritising public and staff health over a fast return to business. Get back to business too quickly, is the thinking, and shops may have to close again in the future if coronavirus infections rise, at an even greater cost to sales. 

In the meantime, pop-up space marketplace Storefront has teamed up with VR specialist Obsess to create virtual stores. In these, it says, retailers can reproduce their high street stores online, helping customers new to buying from them online to find the items they are looking for.

Today’s guest comment comes from Christopher Baird of Capgemini Invent, who argues that retailers will more than ever, after Covid-19, have to offer a cross-channel experience while being able to react quickly and pivot their offering to ensure business continuity.

Image: Adobe Stock

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