Disappointing sales figures and footfall in the High Street in March isn’t a surprise. Nor is the fact that, for many sectors, online is doing well. These are sort of phantom figures massively shape-shifted by the mid-month introduction of the lockdown.
However, the true picture of what retail – not least online – will look like is starting to emerge. Of course, there are going to be business casualties, but for many of the larger retailers that is ‘the death of bad retail’, not the death of retail itself’.
Where there are growth opportunities for online and omni-channel players there is likely to be a long-term boost as well as a means of getting through the next few months.
Naturally, gardening, DIY and homewares etailers are seeing strong sales, catering as they do to things people can do at home without leaving the house. However, as lockdown rolls on for at least another three weeks, many consumers are going to start to (a) get bored and need more distractions and (b) start to run out of other less ‘essential’ items.
And how shoppers choose to meet these needs now could shape how they shop in the future.
Kids clothes and shoes, for instance are going to become a necessity. My kids haven’t stopped growing since lockdown – despite a stern warning from their mother – and so soon we will be having to buy then new clothes and shoes (for our daily walk, nothing more).
Similarly, phones break, kettles explode, ovens stop cooking, printers run out of ink, radios stop receiving, dishwashers need rinse aid. All these ‘normal’ things are going to start to become necessities as the lockdown continues.
And therein lies the opportunities for growth for G2K players. Many of you fill niches, which will increasingly need filling and many of the mainstream retailers aren’t doing the job – figuratively and literally not delivering in many cases.
Take rinse aid for instance. Seemingly, where I live, it is impossible to get. So my better half turned to online and got it, admittedly in bulk, but now we are sorted. And we will use them again next time.
This got me thinking: if that supplier offered a subscription service for rinse aid – and the price was right – I would have signed up there and then. This is one way that retailers can shift there business along in these straightened times and come out on the up on the other side.
The other strategy for growth is to look overseas. China is opening up again and it is looking for supply. The Chinese market has long been one that has been attracted to UK goods and now is the time to capitalise on that. This will, again, fill a gap on the balance sheet now, but sets up a new a lucrative business line for the post-corona era. It could also be a way to future proof against Brexit.
So, while things look dire right now, there are opportunities out there – opportunities that will not only see you through now, but could also pay for for the future of your business.