Holiday music plays as people roam around crowded stores with mince pies and mulled wine in their hands; the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. Doesn’t that feel like something from a different era? Could we see a glimpse of normality restoring in a matter of months? With COVID-19 restrictions in place, and the ever-present possibility of another spike in cases, what will the holiday retail rush look like in 2020?
The unpredictability of the current climate means it’s hard to predict what will happen during what retailers usually consider as their peak trading time. But what do we know, what can we do, and how can we ultimately ensure we adapt to the ever changing landscape of retail, and in a wider sense, the world?
Prepare now. The early bird catches the worm. 60% of consumers start their shopping before Christmas, with the top items consumers purchase for themselves during the holiday season being clothing, shoes, food, liquor, and books. Most retailers will have their holiday campaigns and sales planned out by the end of the summer in anticipation for the busy time ahead. We’ve been speaking to our retail clients who have been spotting key trends and changes over the last few months to predict how to act in the future, and what to invest in. We’re seeing that it’s very much a case of preparing for the best, while continuing to adapt quickly to what the next few months throws our way.
The rushed return to brick and mortar stores - what does this tell us? In certain places when quarantine restrictions lifted, consumers in their masses charged to return to normality. In the midst of a pandemic, this news screams that brick and mortar stores are greatly valued. Consumers really enjoy in-store shopping.
Some of our high end luxury retail clients have seen over a 500% increase in store revenue by offering 1:1 appointments, which offer a safe space where shoppers know they’ll be seen and have someone to speak to at a particular time. While some retailers have permanently closed stores, the priority should be about how to generate the most revenue out of the existing stores. Given the statistics, provided there is not another nationwide lockdown, retailers should prepare for busy stores in the lead up to the holiday season, prioritizing queue management and crowd control. 65% of consumers have indicated that during this crisis, a brand’s actions have a significant impact on their trust in the brand.** Guidance and reassurance as to how consumers can return to the stores safely is crucial for slowing the spread of infection, and nurturing a sense of trust across their customer base.
Engage virtually: “Retail therapy” is real. The phrase “retail therapy” has never been more poignant. Brick and mortar stores aside, the pandemic has given way to a huge spike in digital sales and engagement, with online sales growing 76% in June. Since stores have reopened, some brands are now seeing a slightly more equal balance of store vs digital revenue, while many others are still seeing a 50%-80% decrease in footfall. To cater to the entire customer base, and in preparation for another potential spike in infection, it’s key that retailers offer a way for customers to engage remotely. Not being prepared when COVID-19 first hit was understandable given the unprecedented nature of a global pandemic. But if brands aren’t prepared for a second wave, it will mean significant damage to their reputation. Engaging virtually could include offering curbside pickup, personalized 1:1 appointments, or interesting and educational events online. Ultimately, brand loyalty will soar by showing customers retailers are there with them, and for them, during these uncertain times.
So what will the peak trading months and the holiday season look like in 2020? Well… Who knows? What we do know is that retailers, now more than ever, must take a multifaceted approach when planning for peak season. Adaptability should be at the forefront of planning, preparation is key, and engaging with customers on a different level to distinguish themselves from other brands is fundamental to whether 2020 is the year that makes or breaks a brand’s business.