As non-essential stores prepare to reopen, there is no shortage of tactical action required to do this safely and effectively. Government advice is plentiful and detailed, the cost and operational burden is high. Many retailers will adopt a phased approach to test both procedures and consumer appetite to return, adjusting reopening plans as they see how much pent up demand really translates into physical sales. Many stores will never be economically viable with the reduced footfall levels required by social distancing and likely consumer nervousness.
There are many practical considerations. In AlixPartners Restart Playbook series we address these here. However, retailer leaders are also turning their attention to more strategic considerations concerning the role of the store. For some this will change rapidly as a result of the crisis. Even before Covid, the divide between essential retailers and non-essential retailers was widening. If your products are discretionary, the need to provide an experience to give consumers a reason to shop with you was becoming ever more important as it is impossible to compete on price or convenience with online or discount players. Stores are a big part of this experience and this is unlikely to change post C-19, albeit there will be less stores to have that experience in for sure.
Retailers seeking to get ahead of the competition as we emerge from lockdown should be rapidly evolving the role of the store into a hub for experience, collection, advice etc. to make it an integral part of an omnichannel journey that adds value for consumers and clearly contributes to the differentiation and profitability of the company. Thinking differently about how channels are run and reported, roles and capabilities of store staff, relationships between central functions and stores is all part of this. Now is the time to experiment with new store operating models and push the boundaries of what was thought possible pre-Covid.
Don't waste a good crisis!