Top500 retailers are finding new ways to sell in the age of Covid-19. The pandemic has forced social distancing on retailers so that even when non-essential retailers reopen their shops next week, those shops will feel very different.
Here’s how two Top500 retailers are addressing the issue.
Nursery retailer Mamas & Papas is introducing a new virtual personal shop for those who have, or are expecting, a new baby. Pregnant women are classed as a vulnerable group so even when shops do reopen, they may not want to leave the house to visit them.
Instead, they can now chat to expert personal shoppers at the retailer over a video call from the shop floor. Staff will answer questions and demonstrate items that callers are interested in, from car seats to pushchairs. One-hour appointments are now available, following a trial, every day from 10.30am to 6pm.
The retailer is also introducing virtual Parents to Be group session to offer advice on parenting issues, with each session followed by a live Q&A. A new partnership with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) will see practitioners answer questions on pregnancy and birth over Instagram and offer advice through the Mamas & Papas blog blog.mamasandpapas.com . Antenatal and postnatal webinars are also being piloted. Celebrity influencers from Lydia Bright and Dr Alex George to athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill will share their hints and tips via the Mamas & Papas Instagram account.
Mamas & Papas marketing director Alex Holt said: ““There’s never been a more relevant time to embrace our community and be there for new and expectant parents.
“Customers can chat to a real person, in a real store, and get an instant answer to any questions they have from the comfort and safety of their home. The virtual Personal Shop is a first for the industry and a big step forward for the brand.
“Although we accelerated the launch in response to Covid-19, these digital services will continue beyond the restrictions as they suit the needs of busy parents. Ultimately, it gives parents a different way to engage and shop with us.”
Mamas & Papas is a Top250 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.
Personal shoppers are also taking to the floor at HMV, which is to reopen 93 shops in England and Northern Ireland on June 15, with two new multichannel services. Shoppers can drop off a list of items they want to buy and in-store staff will collect them before packing them ready for collection, a service named HMV list and leave. A ‘ring and reserve’ service allows shoppers to call a shop and reserve an in-stock item that they want to pick up and pay for later that day. The two services add to a click and collect service that is already available for those who want to buy online and then pick-up later.
Items that are returned will be quarantined for 72 hours before being returned to the shop floor, where social distancing will be in operation and hand sanitiser easily available.
HMV owner Doug Putman said: “Our teams have been working on plans to reopen since the day we had to close our doors. We’ve redesigned our store layouts so that customers can make their way through the stores, buy what they want and pay seamlessly, while maintaining spaces for those who want to browse while maintaining social distancing.
“We’ve sought to keep as much of what people love about the HMV and Fopp experience intact and build on the experience whilst ensuring that customers can shop with us comfortably and confidently.”
Stuart Smith, manager at the HMV Vault in Birmingham, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming our customers back into stores. We’ve been through intensive training over the last few weeks to ensure that staff members are fully supported in returning to stores and that customers have the best possible experience. What’s more, with personal shopping through hmv List and Leave and hmv Ring and Reserve, we think customers will find that in many ways their experience is enhanced when they visit us next.”
HMV is a Top350 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.
Image by Fabio de Paola/courtesy of HMV