COVID-19 Resources – Leadership, Data, Employment Info. and Fun Stuff

This week’s Retail Resources blog post is a collection of the best content and resources that I have seen in the past week. I hope it will help you navigate the coronavirus pandemic. This week, I share information on leadership, interesting data and employment information. It’s a fun post that should help you feel better.


  • Jennifer Thornton, CEO at 304 Coaching, will host a free online workshop called Leading Edge that offers executive leadership training. Thornton, who was formerly a prominent retail executive, offers the series free of charge to help the community. This week’s workshops include ” Building Better Relationships through Conversation” on Tuesday, May 5, at 12 p.m. EDT/9 a.m. PST, and ” The Golden Ladder Network with Susan Collins on Thursday, May 7, at 12 p.m. EDT/9 AM PT. Register here. In your email, you’ll get all the details and a link to a Workbook that you can follow along.
  • Harvard Business Publishing created an online portal to provide information and resources for business leaders in order to manage their teams and communicate well during uncertain and challenging times. This portal offers advice on how to maintain collaboration, productivity, and learning among remote teams during this crisis.

Interesting Data

  • NPD is a market research company that tracks consumer purchases from over 290,000 retail outlets and e-commerce platforms. It has now created a COVID-19 hub which provides up-to-the-minute information on how the virus affects consumer spending. Civic Science is NPD’s partner. They have started a blog with interesting data on consumers and COVID-19. Register here to receive NPD’s weekly webcast that discusses key shifts in retail spending and consumer spending, based on NPD’s sales data and expert commentary.
  • Pepperjam is an affiliate marketing solution provider. They have created several assets to assist the entire online marketing community in navigating the uncertainties that COVID-19 brings. Pepperjam’s Pepperjam Affiliate Marketing Sales Index provides trend information about daily gross merchandise sales for all verticals, year-over-year. Its How to Optimize With Affiliate Partners Amid COVID-19 ebook offers information about opportunities with Pepperjam publisher partners. And its Customer Spend Strategy Survey eBook offers data on the effects of COVID-19 on marketing spend, strategy, and prominence.

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Information about Job Search and Hiring.

  • LinkedIn continues to update a listing of companies currently hiring. A ” Coronavirus Resources Hub” was also launched by the social network. This hub helps users find work, recruit talent, and receives advice on how to navigate the ever-changing world of work. LinkedIn also features a list listing volunteer opportunities for organizations at the forefront of the global coronavirus epidemic.
  • This was mentioned before , but I thought I would return to it: Adam Rose, a well-known ecommerce recruiter, has created a Google Sheet listing names of ecommerce professionals who lost their jobs due to the current crisis. It is possible to create a spreadsheet that lists all those affected and can be shared on LinkedIn. You can view the entire list . Adam can be reached on LinkedIn if you’d like to join the list. The good news is that Adam stated that the list was being routed to the right people, and many of those on it have found employment already!

Fun Stuff

  • You are looking for something to do with your friends, colleagues, or on your own? Airbnb offers an Online Experiences website that allows people who practice social distancing or stay at home to find activities they can do remotely. You can find activities such as cooking and bartending classes, virtual bike tours and Korean makeup tutorials. There are also comedy shows and lessons in drawing.
  • Kids in Parks’ e-Adventures online activity program could be the perfect solution for families with children. Families can use their smartphones or tablets to participate in a series of scavenger hunt-style activities within their yards, neighborhoods, and green spaces. To earn prizes like a nature journal or patch, backpack, magnifying lens, and patch, children can log their participation. This sounds like a great way to spend Saturday or Sunday.


Retailers are rethinking their operations to increase resilience

The COVID-19 epidemic continues to have a devastating effect on the global economy. Retail has been particularly hard hit. Many retailers are still experiencing store closures as a result of the shift in consumer behavior. However, it is imperative that retailers develop a plan to allow them to adapt their operations and protect customers and employees when they reopen. In the short-term, many of these retailers can make minor changes to their operations (retail shops, distribution centers, etc. Some retailers can make minor changes to their operations, while others will need to overhaul all of their processes and systems.

It is important to understand the context for these changes by highlighting the key guidelines that were recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO), and how retailers can pivot their strategies to address them.

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Maintaining Social Distancing Rules

Many stores that are considered “essential” such as pharmacies and grocery stores, have already implemented social distancing measures. Simple changes like placing tape on the floor to remind customers to keep within the six-foot threshold can be made. This is done at all points where there are queues, such as at the cashier or customer service desk. In some cases, the maximum occupancy of a store was reduced and enforced with door greeters and automatic counting devices.

Implementing infection protection measures

Hand hygiene is an important aspect of reducing the spread and severity of the coronavirus. Many retailers offer hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and gloves for customers and shoppers in order to promote good hand hygiene. Retailers should look to the healthcare sector for guidance in the long-term. One example of an innovative solution from HITactics is Bluetooth sensors and/or tags, which link to mobile apps with context aware alerts. These alerts are audible reminders that you should wash your hands regularly and remind you to follow other hand washing procedures.

Reduce Face-to-Face contact and activities that require physical touch

Another area where there are high potential for infection is the checkout process. This is due to direct contact with customers. Companies are trying to find ways to minimize this intrusiveness while still allowing for positive human experiences. Clear Plexiglas dividers have been quickly adopted by many grocery stores to separate the area between customers and cashiers. To improve the “no touch” environment, and to make transactions safer for all parties, retailers who have been slow to accept contact-less payments with physical credit cards or mobile wallets such as Apple Pay or Google Pay are now accelerating the implementation of these technologies. Long-term, retailers might consider investing in RFID technology to manage product stock and manage it. This investment will have a significant impact on both safety for customers and employees during touchless checkout.

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Redesign Policies and Procedures with Ongoing Training

Retailers will be required to provide ongoing training programs that address changes in procedures. To ensure that employees feel confident and safe in their work, these trainings should be conducted frequently. Wingspan, among others, is a digital platform that provides a single, easy-to-follow view of what is expected to protect customers and employees while in-store. These technologies are easily adaptable to meet changing guidelines and requirements. These learning solutions provide insights directly to mobile devices, and offer short, immediate learning to improve compliance rates.

Employers can take generous leave policies

These guidelines are intended to reduce the chance of infection and instill confidence in employees regarding the safety and security of their work environment. An infected worker spreading the virus at work should not cause employees to lose their job or wages. Retailers must instill confidence in employees. This will help to remove fear from employees and retailers.

There is a simple but crucial first step retailers should take when navigating the multitude of options and changes available to improve safety. They should first conduct a step-by-step review and identify any potential “hot spots” to improve safety and comfort. This critical step may seem to be focused on the immediate, but it should also consider the long-term with the goal of implementing safeguards in the customer experience. Safety is key, but it should not be detrimental to the customer experience, today or tomorrow.

Although I have discussed in-store operations above, it is becoming increasingly important to increase your digital presence and capabilities. As expectations have increased, it will be necessary to rethink how you serve customers at home. This won’t change after the pandemic. It will continue to accelerate in fact.

The pace of change has never been greater than now. However, companies who “seize” the moment and take action to “virus-proof” their operations will be stronger once we are out of this pandemic.

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Brick-and-Mortar must repurpose existing employees for a new retail model

Retail has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Contactless delivery and curbside pickup have become the new standard in fulfillment. It’s clear that consumers are in desperate need of essential items like groceries, hand sanitizer, and masks. This demand is so high that even, an e-commerce giant, was unable to keep up. Demand grew as did shipping and fulfillment delays. While retailers are adapting to this new environment, there is still a need to fill the gaps in the market for consumers who have been used to receiving same-day/next day delivery. These gaps offer brick-and-mortar stores opportunities if they are able to repurpose their workforce.

This may seem counterintuitive at first glance, as so much of the current retail model relies on delivery. But let’s take a look at the order fulfillment chain. E-commerce businesses are more suited to delivery than other types of business. However, they are also tied to third-party shipping companies. This type of fulfillment relay will be subject to delays in high-volume, high demand environments, like the one created by the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to gain competitive advantage in the current fulfillment landscape.

Brick-and-mortar retail has a few key advantages that will allow it to profit from the increased demand for next day delivery. Brick-and-mortar shops have local stock available and have built relationships with local consumers over many years. They have the inventory and are closer to the customer. Most of the inventory isn’t designed for curbside pickup or delivery. There are some changes that they can make in order to adapt quickly to this new normal.

Retailers must first repurpose their workforce. This will not only save jobs but also allow retailers to be more agile. Many employees who stock items or work at the point-of-purchase must be made delivery drivers or placed on curbside pick up detail. To make this work easier, retailers must take control of the delivery and pick-up portions of their business. To make this happen, retailers will need to use a cloud-based delivery platform that allows them to quickly create and maintain a customer-friendly, last mile delivery solution that is easy to implement.

The lesson that this health crisis has taught us as a society is that last-mile delivery is a microcosm: Local matters in times of great need. This lesson was learned as a nation when we were forced to import essential items from other nations, just as we did when N95 surgical masks came from China. The same lesson applies to the local level. Retailers who learn this lesson and make necessary adjustments will not only be able to survive in current realities, but will also have the ability to create a retail environment that is likely to bring about lasting changes.

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Best Buy Plans to Reopen Stores By Appointment Only

CNBC reported that Best Buy will gradually open its stores to customers by making appointments starting in May. CNBC reported that shoppers will be able schedule appointments to meet with a sales representative to discuss potential purchases, technology concerns, and other matters. This service will be offered in approximately 200 locations by Best Buy, which already has over 1,000 U.S. shops. Customers will be able make appointments online, by phone, or via Best Buy’s mobile app. Before the appointment, an employee will call to explain the process. A specific employee will visit each customer in-store and shop with them. If the customer asks to test a product, it will then be washed down. CNBC reported that the employee will take the customer to the register and then out of the store.

In-home delivery, installation, and repairs will be resumed by Best Buy in May with new safety precautions. All employees of the retailer will have to wear masks, gloves and undergo a health screening via Best Buy’s app. Best Buy temporarily closed its stores and suspended in-home services during the COIVD-19 pandemic. They shifted to curbside pickup instead. CNBC reported that Best Buy furloughed 51,00 employees in the beginning of this month.

Total Retail’s View:Best Buy was one of the first to announce a reopening strategy since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not many retailers have yet shared the vision for the future shopping experience post-coronavirus. This announcement shows that Best Buy is putting its customers first and bringing back some of its employees. The consultation component of the store reopening could even increase in-store sales. It will be interesting for consumers to respond to Best Buy’s plan to reopen, as well as how other retailers’ plans to reopen are compared once they share them with the public. Other retailers will closely monitor Best Buy’s reopening as they try to bring back their physical stores.

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The new reality for non-essential retail: Can the store experience survive?

COVID-19 caused a major shift in the way we shop. Stores deemed not essential were closed and those that remained open were drastically altered. It was a difficult task to go to the grocery store. You had to wait in long lines, wear masks and keep your distance from other customers.

These restrictions can feel uncomfortable as retailers open stores that are not essential. Customers are used to taking their own time in an enjoyable experience. Although shopping for toys, cosmetics, and clothes is a great escape, customers may soon find these experiences less enjoyable.

Retailers must provide experiences that are not only safe, adaptable to changing conditions and enjoyable for customers in order to keep them engaged.

Building Trust Through Safety

Many retailers have increased safety measures beyond limiting the number of people allowed in a store and keeping them away from the entrance. Sephora and Costco encourage customers to wear masks. Apple and American Eagle Outfitters will take customers’ temperatures at their doors. Hand sanitizer will be available at all store entrances and exits. Stores will also be regularly cleaned. The actions taken to protect customers who are anxious about shopping in stores may make them more loyal.

Contactless Shopping Accelerated

For years, retailers have experimented with contactless shopping. The Amazon Go store and Sam’s Club’s Scan & Go apps both reimagined store experiences. COVID-19 increases the possibility of contactless shopping in the interests of safety. It is important to understand where touch happens during the shopping experience and replace it with touchless options. This includes apps that allow customers to search for product information, which reduces the need to touch the products; apps that alert associates to customer queries; payment via an app or tap; and robotics that deliver items to customers. Kroger and Walmart have explored robotics and automation in warehouses. This can reduce human contact.

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Creating Delight

Augmented reality (AR), which can add a sense of play and discovery to the shopping experience, can also enhance safety. AR wayfinding can be used in stores to direct customers to the right item, and offer savings as they shop. The ability to virtual try on apparel, jewelry, and cosmetics can reduce browsing time and help consumers find new products. Sales associates and robots can source products from the back of the store in showroom environments. Digital tools that are connected to customer profiles can be used to make smart recommendations. This allows the shopper access to the best products quicker and creates genuine value.

The Store Format can be repurposed

For retailers that offer omnichannel services, the ability to adjust the store’s layout quickly could prove vital. A portion of a store’s space can be used to allow store employees to order online. Online orders can be fulfilled efficiently by dark stores, which allow retailers to quickly get products to customers and save space.

Shop for Personal Items Virtually

Online shopping may be easier if retailers consider the grocery picking model. This is where sales associates pick items for customers. A virtual personal shopper can help customers with non-essential retail items like cosmetics or clothing. They can also offer advice and suggest items based upon customer profiles. These personal shoppers could provide high-quality service remotely, which would keep customers and associates safe.

A path of uncertainty but full of opportunity

The future is uncertain in many ways. If stores keep focusing on safety, will customers become more impatient with this new reality? Will people turn to online shopping more often? It will be interesting to watch how retailers become more adept at selling customers online. Or if they will prefer the convenience of shopping in a physical location.

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Simon, Mall Owner and Authentic Brands Place $305M Offer for Bankrupt Brooks Brothers

According to a court filing last week, SPARC LLC, a full service retail operator that includes the U.S. mall owners Simon Property Group (ABG) and the apparel licensing company Authentic Brands Group, has submitted a $305 million offer for Brooks Brothers. According to the court filing, the offer is subject to higher and better bids as well as court approval. It will allow Brooks Brothers stores to remain open for business at least 125 times. According to the filing, a court hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 3 to approve the bid. Other competing offers must be received by Aug. 5. August 11th will see the Brooks Brothers assets being sold. WHP Global, which is a competitor to ABG, is also considering a bid for Brooks Brothers’ assets, the company said to CNBC. Brooks Brothers applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors. It had 250 locations across North America at the time. The iconic retailer had been struggling with rent and was forced to close its locations. A disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 accelerated the sales process.

Total Retail’s View: Last week’s announcement is not surprising. As America’s largest mall owners, Simon, are looking to make deals to save retailers that were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. CNBC reported. The problem of empty storefronts is becoming a growing concern for mall owners. J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J.Crew are just a few of the many people who have filed for bankruptcy protection, along with Ann Taylor parent Ascena Retail Group. Simon and ABG worked together before. ABG, which is an expert in manufacturing and licensing, has joined forces with Simon, who specializes in retail real-estate. The court has yet to approve the offer. Before SPARC was created, ABG and Simon merged in 2016 to purchase the teen clothing retailer Aeropostale from bankruptcy.

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Yahoo Mail Now Offers Groceries Shopping

Today, Verizon Media announced the launch Groceries From Walmart, a Yahoo Mail feature which allows users to browse, add groceries to cart and buy essential groceries from Walmart. Verizon Media claims that this is the first time email users have been able to fill out a shopping basket directly from their inbox. This streamlines their shopping experience and makes it easier for them to shop from within their mail app. One in four Americans use Yahoo Mail today, which sends 4.5 billion emails per day.

Rich Lehrfeld, senior vice-president, Walmart Marketing, stated that customers are relying more on Walmart to save money on the items they need and to save time. The new “Groceries From Walmart” feature, which lives in Yahoo Mail, takes another step to make our customers’ lives easier by allowing them to shop whenever, how, and wherever they want.

Here’s how Groceries From Walmart works: After users sign in to their email accounts, they will see a Walmart banner at top of their incoming emails. Click that banner, then enter the required information and click on it to search for essential grocery items. Then they can check out. Groceries from Walmart are currently available in the Yahoo Mail iOS and desktop apps, with Android to follow later this year.

The feature allows users to receive customized grocery recommendations based upon their Yahoo profiles. The shopping cart doesn’t expire, so consumers can continue adding items throughout the week, and then check out when they’re ready.

Total Retail’s View: This new functionality makes perfect sense considering that more Americans shop online for groceries now than ever and they do it more often with COVID-19. According to a May survey from Inmar Intelligence almost 80 percent of Americans now shop online for groceries, up 40 percent over pre-pandemic levels. A majority of respondents say they shop online for groceries more frequently than before the pandemic. This is not the first time Verizon has offered a service that helps consumers shop for groceries. Yahoo Mail, for instance, announced last year that its updated app now includes GroceryView. This allows users to see deals at local grocery stores and save them to their shopping lists. It also lets them connect their loyalty cards to automatically apply coupons at checkout. Although the feature may have seemed strange at first, it is not related to email. Verizon claims that it serves consumers’ desire to save money on mass mailing lists and spam. Yahoo users will now be able to browse Walmart’s grocery catalogue at their own leisure, and to add items to their Yahoo Mail shopping cart for pickup at their local Walmart.

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L.L. Bean Expands with First U.S. Wholesale Partnerships

L.L. Bean is moving beyond its original model of direct to customer catalog sales and in store sales. The company has an agreement to sell its products at Nordstrom, Staples and SCHEELS. AP News. The first wholesale deals in the U.S. are a push to bring the brand’s products closer to consumers. L.L.Bean backpacks, water bottles and other products were sold in the first phase of this initiative. They went on sale in over 1,000 Staples stores just two weeks ago. L.L.Bean gear is expected to be available in a dozen SCHEELS stores throughout the Midwest, and 20 Nordstrom stores across the U.S. in the fall.

The 108-year-old retailer isn’t unusual in moving into wholesale. In 2018, L.L. Bean signed an agreement to sell products in Canadian Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Hudson’s Bay, and Sporting Life stores. Three years ago, the company reached an agreement to expand its sales in Japan beyond its company-branded stores. L.L. Bean remains committed to its stores and will continue to open stores in selected markets.

Total Retail’s View: With increasing competition in retail and online, L.L. Bean is making it easier for consumers to touch and feel its products through more channels and places than ever. Wholesale partnerships allow the brand to quickly increase its physical footprint and reduce the cost of running nearly 50 stores across the country.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for The NPD Group, stated that “it’s a smart strategy by retailers like L.L.Bean in order to reach more customers without the risks that come with opening new shops and signing long leases.” L.L.Bean’s online store allows consumers who live far from the store to have greater access to the product to test it before they buy. This will increase the brand’s sales.

The Maine-based retailer, Charlie Bruder (Vice President of Merchandising at L.L. Bean), stated that despite the current retail environment, he believes there is an opportunity to grow while others contract. Bruder said that the key to L.L.Bean’s success in expanding its retail partnerships was “finding a few retailers that share the company’s customer service philosophy”. This will ensure that customers are satisfied at all locations that sell L.L.Bean merchandise. Although it is not the most ideal time to venture into wholesale, considering the strength and reputation of L.L.Bean, it’s likely that this will be a good move for both the company and its wholesale partners.

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Nordstrom will pay only half of its rent for 2020

Nordstrom is the latest retail tenant to fall out with its landlords. According to reports, the upscale department store chain has informed the owners of its off-price Rack and namesake stores that it will only pay half of its remaining 2020 rent costs. On Friday, President of Stores Jamie Nordstrom wrote to landlords stating that comps would be used to determine whether the company will make its rent payments. According to the report, Nordstrom would make a full reconciliation if 2020 sales exceed 90 percent in this location in 2019.

Total Retail’s View: Nordstrom has taken the latest steps to reduce costs and maintain cash flow. The department store announced last month a significant reduction in its workforce (The Seattle Times reported 6,000 job cuts) and plans to close 16 full-line stores. However, it is unlikely that the landlords will agree to a lower rent payment without much effort. Brookfield Property Partners and Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the US, have filed suit against Gap Inc. for late rent payments. This precedent shows that mall landlords will not renegotiate terms. Nordstrom will likely face similar problems with its payment plan, according to my expectations.


What’s next: Post-COVID Strategy For Retailers

Retailers are being faced with many challenges as more states and cities move towards a post-COVID future. There was so much that changed during quarantine. It is most likely that how people shop has been at the top. Online and brick-and mortar retailers need to redesign their customer experience to ensure that customers feel connected to their brand.

One of the biggest changes that we all witnessed was the need to shop online. This was a new experience for some, while others simply noticed a shift in the products they could purchase online. It’s quick, simple, and people can avoid crowds and sickness. The fact that shoppers have changed their shopping habits is something retailers can’t ignore.

Similar story: Will we witness a shift in consumer shopping behavior post-COVID-19

Accept the fact that things have changed

What are the biggest changes retailers will need to make after COVID? Many people prefer shopping online. This is directly related to the shift in work from home requirements. Many companies now realize the advantages of allowing employees stay at home. This will likely be the norm for many positions. This will allow for continued online shopping. Online retailers might want to think about how to digitize their stores in order to take advantage of the online shopping boom.

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Take into account consumer behavior

People who have been in strict quarantine for several days should not be underestimated when it comes to shopping. article by Deloitte states that people are less likely than ever to browse, and they are more likely to get out, interact with others, or touch unnecessary products. Retailers should be careful about product placement and simplify the shopping experience. If the layout is complicated or everyday items are farther back, people are more likely not to shop in that store.

Accept adjustments

We’ve never been this far as a society. Retailers must be open to change and adapt their market strategies. Consumers will feel confident knowing that the latest product information is available to them in real-time. This will allow consumers to regain trust when shopping with your brand.

Technology is a critical factor

Some stores might be able survive, but it is essential to develop a digital strategy. According to Supermarket news, retailers need to listen to customers. While restrictions have eased, many are still reluctant to shop in-store and some simply don’t like it. Retailers need to think about their long-term digital strategy and how they will attract and keep online shoppers to survive the post COVID era. It might take some time for people to shop the way they used to. It may not be a good idea to keep what you have, but to move on and change.

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Although some retailers might be anxious about the transition to the new “normal”, the main focus should be on consumers. Think about their changing mindset, how they shop, and what is most important to them right now.

While we don’t know what COVID will do to consumer preferences in the long-term, we do know that online shopping is preferred by many. If retailers want their websites and doors to continue functioning, they must be aware of this.


Better vs. Bigger: The Future of Black Friday

The holiday shopping season in 2020 will be like no other in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many social norms out of their place and accelerated new trends, exacerbating the weaknesses in retail. Retailers must have an integrated, seamless omnichannel offering in order to survive. They also need to be agile in the face continuous uncertainty.

Brick-and-mortar stores faced many challenges long before COVID-19 was introduced in the first quarter of 2019. These challenges combined posed slow-burning but serious threats. As e-commerce became more popular, retail footfall declined steadily from 2018 to 2019. ShopperTrak data shows a rise in foot traffic. This is based on the COVID-19 safety precautions being taken in each state. Online shopping has made “going to the shops” more difficult, costly, and burdensome. Online retail has made prices, as well as margins and markups, more transparent for consumers. The increasing number of abandoned malls and Main Streets in trouble have been indicators of consumer buying behavior.

Retail experts predict that the holiday selling season may begin earlier than usual, with consumers looking to shop before the masses. Brick-and-mortar stores won’t have an easier time following state and city closing guidelines during a pandemic. My teenage daughter and I went shopping in a New Jersey mall recently. The shopkeepers were very happy to have us there! We went to Staten Island’s local mall two days later and found a closed store.

Retailers should accept the demands of the pandemic and use this opportunity to invent as they approach holiday season. Black Friday was a declining holiday, and deals extended into Cyber Monday. Although it will likely remain an important part of the commercial calendar for many years, Black Friday seems to have reached its natural level last year.

There is some hope this year that the date will be the start of economic recovery. However, it must not be a second wave COVID-19 and confidence does not improve. Although the stock market is now recovering from March’s slump, many are still uncertain about the state of the economy. Recent unemployment rates are at 8 percent. A potential obstacle to a strong holiday season could be Washington, D.C.’s impasse over extending additional unemployment compensation to U.S. citizens.

While consumers may feel nostalgic for Black Friday, retailers will likely have mixed feelings. Black Friday can be a margin-saving opportunity in the lead up to Christmas. However, many retailers feel forced to participate because they are in a sort of prisoner’s dilemma between their competitors. Black Friday’s upside can be much smaller than it appears. Our clients have reported that up to 45 percent is lost revenue from Black Friday, due to the events occurring in the weeks preceding and following.

Although no one can predict the size of Black Friday this year, we expect more variation. While some retailers might choose to “sit it out,” others will attempt to make up the difference and increase their revenue targets. The role of inventory will be crucial. Non-food retailers might have stock left over from earlier in the year while others may have already reduced orders. The outcome of each situation will be different. Only time will tell how this year will impact the future Black Friday.

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Walmart Annulles Robotics Contract and Bets on Human Workers

Walmart has ended its relationship with Bossa Nova Robotics. This company made robots that scan shelves to find inventory. CNBC. Walmart has found other cost-effective and simple ways to manage its products with human workers, rather than robots. Walmart spokeswoman said that approximately 500 robots were present in its more than 4,700 stores at the time the contract was ended. Walmart is continuing to experiment with technology and recently announced four brick-and mortar stores as e-commerce labs.

Total Retail’s View: Despite the fact that many retailers are experimenting with high-tech products, it’s important for companies to ensure they get a return on their technology investments. Walmart’s decision to retire floor inventory robots could signal a slowdown of the market for in-store technology. This may be because some retailers feel their employees are better suited for the job. E-commerce sales are on the rise due to the coronavirus epidemic. This means that there is less need for costly in-store technology systems. Footfall trends downward may also be a factor.

Walmart understands that technology investments are crucial to its future plans. Walmart announced last week that it will transform four stores into online e-commerce labs to test digital tools and other strategies that can speed up the fulfillment of online orders and restock shelves. Walmart wants to make its vast physical footprint a stronger advantage in e-commerce. It would not be surprising for retailers to invest in technology that is omnichannel focused, such as curbside pickup and shared cart capabilities, instead of tech solutions that are only available in-store.


Macy’s will skip Santa Claus, Ending 159-Year Tradition

In 2020, Santa Claus will not be visiting Macy’s stores. This is a break in 159-year-old holiday tradition. Because of the threat of the coronavirus, Santa meet and greets will not be taking place this year. The tradition began in 1861. Macy’s has created an interactive virtual experience.

“To recreate the magic experience of Macy’s Santaland visit for children and their parents, we will shift our focus to a virtual engagement in this year’s Macy’s vice-president of branded entertainment,” Susan Tercero said in a press release.

From Nov. 27 through Dec. 24, the virtual Santa experience will be online. Macy’s will limit how many children can participate in the personalized experience. Only three children can be enrolled at a time.

Total Retail’s View: It’s sad that a holiday tradition so many families have loved over the years has ended (at least for 2020), but it’s not surprising. Macy’s decided that it was too risky to offer the normal Santaland experience. This included children sitting at Santa’s feet and telling him what gifts they want this year. Retailers must make customer safety a top priority this holiday season as they attempt to entice customers back into their stores. Macy’s announced that it will not offer an in-person Santa experience, but some malls have moved ahead with their plans. Brookfield Properties, which is the country’s second largest mall operator, announced that Santa will be visiting 134 of its 150 malls. Santa will still be behind the plexiglass. Rocell Viniard from Brookfield Properties, director of portfolio market, said that the “touchless experience with Santa” will be “a drive-up type of scenario.” COVID-19 is another blow for struggling Macy’s. It will end one of the largest foot traffic generators of this year, if not the greatest.


Carter’s will Close at Most 200 Stores

Carter’s will permanently close hundreds of stores. Today, the children’s accessories and apparel retailer, Carter’s, announced that it will close 25% of its brick-and mortar fleet. This is approximately 200 locations. Carter’s CEO Michael Casey told analysts that almost 60 percent of these outposts would likely close by next year, and 80 percent by 2022. Carter’s currently has about 850 stores across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They are under the OshKosh B’Gosh name.

Total Retail’s View: Carter’s has made the strategic decision to close its unprofitable stores. Many of these stores are located in smaller shopping centers. The children’s clothing brand is changing the direction of its physical retail stores and will now choose outposts closer to customers that can better serve omnichannel customers. Carter’s, for example, wants to take advantage of the growing demand for services like curbside pickup and buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), which are closely integrated with its ecommerce business. Carter’s isn’t abandoning brick-and-mortar retailers. Carter’s believes there is an opportunity to grow that segment of the business.

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Casey stated that “as other retailers struggle and reduce their retail footprint, we are able to pursue new and better real estate opportunities.” It’s a buyers market and we intend to seek out better opportunities in better locations that offer convenience for our customers and high returns on our shareholders’ investments.


Food Retailers must maintain employee morale in order to weather a crisis.

Over the past few months, many retail categories experienced an increase in online sales. Mid-April saw a 68 percent increase in U.S. retailers’ revenue year-over-year. The popularity of BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in-store) also increased. Walmart Grocery was quickly ranked No. In fact, Walmart Grocery quickly became the No. 1 shopping app in April.

But, fear of falling ill, social distancing and stay-at-home orders haven’t stopped consumers from shopping at general retail or grocery stores. According to analytics, Walmart, Target and Safeway saw increases in foot traffic between quarters 1 and 2. (14.1 percent and 8.5 percent respectively) Per-visitor visits were also on the rise. H-E-B had an average visit of 8.5 per customer and Walmart an average of 7.9 visits.

These trends are likely to slow down, as we know. Some grocers report that sales have increased by just 20% compared to 200% in March. Food retailers need to be aware of the potential impact these shopping sprees can have on their staff. They are the ones who stock shelves, operate checkout lanes, deal with customer complaints and put themselves in danger.

Maintaining Employee Morale through Uncertainty

Many retailers have responded by offering additional support to employees. Target also offered free gloves and face masks to employees. Target also increased employee pay by $2 an hour from July 4. The mass merchant offered paid leave to high-risk employees (including those over 65 years old and those with pre-existing conditions) until May 31. Similar programs are offered by Kowalski’s and Cub Foods. They offer a $2 increase in pay and double-time for overtime hours to employees.

It is important to remember that it can be hard to maintain team morale and company culture in a normalbusiness setting. These tasks require constant and transparent communication between management and employees.

This is possible with approaches that emphasize annual opinion surveys, face-to-face feedback sessions every quarter, and an open door policy. In uncertain times, however, this is not enough.

You can let your frustrations and worries fester if you don’t constantly monitor the situation’s pulse. Not only will you be fighting the COVID-19 crises, but also rumors, speculation, and a declining morale. You can put sneeze guards in every checkout aisle. But does this really relieve the enormous pressure that store workers feel?

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Retailers can decide how they support employees and maintain team morale. Company culture should guide the actions taken. There are still some areas that you should be focusing your attention. These are the most common places to begin:

1. Create a consistent communication strategy

It is vital to any business process that employees have a predictable workday. Good communication can also create a sense comfort in uncertain times by providing the information that employees need.

Establishing protocols for all communication is the first step. Keep messaging clear and transparent. Avoiding difficult topics can hurt your credibility, especially since so much information is readily available. It is better for employees to hear from you than just filling in the gaps.

Your business can decide how to disseminate information. Walmart chose to rally employees through its ” Walmart Radio podcast.” They covered COVID-19 safety, offered morale boosters and broadcast other useful information to associates all over the world.

No matter what protocols you have in place, it is important to keep your pace. Employees might feel the worst if they are forced to cancel a meeting or call. Keep in touch with all forms and types of communication.

2. Get feedback.

Communication is, they say, a two-way street. It’s not enough to just share information. You need to get input from your employees in these uncertain times.

You can send out a pulse survey but don’t go too long. Just ask a few questions and you’ll get a sense of everyone’s current situation. You should also check whether staff have the information and resources they need to safely work. It might be a good idea to ask employees if certain tasks can be put on the back burner. Are there any tasks you could take off their plate to make their job easier?

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3. Employee well-being is a priority

A little over three-fifths Americans are concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus. So, you might be able to say the same thing about your employees.

The way you promote employees’ well-being, just like any communication strategy, will differ from one organization to another. Join the 53 per cent of companies who offer mental health benefits. These companies may have made changes in their employee assistance programs. Others offer discounts on mental-health apps. Starbucks offers free therapy for all U.S. employees, and their eligible families.

Things will eventually get back to normal, or at least some of it. The employee-support and morale-boosting initiatives that you have put in place must be maintained indefinitely. You have a team of employees who were committed to your company throughout the pandemic. Now it is time to return the favor and ensure their wellbeing.


Dollar General Launches a New Store called Popshelf

Popshelf is the new store launched by Dollar General, a discount retailer based in Tennessee. CNBC reported. It will sell home decor, beauty products, cleaning supplies, party items and many other items for $5 or less. Popshelf stores will measure approximately 9,000 square feet and will carry some Dollar General private labels.

In the Nashville area, Popshelf will open its first two stores in the coming weeks. Dollar General plans on opening about 30 more locations by next year. CNBC reports that Popshelf is targeted at women with an annual income of $50,000 to $125,000 and who live in suburban areas. The merchandise will also be changed frequently to surprise customers, according to CNBC.

Total Retail’s TakeDollar General has seen its sales and store count grow steadily since the pandemic. There are currently more than 16700 stores across 46 states. Popshelf could be a popular choice for consumers who are more conscious about their spending. Popshelf’s merchandise is priced at a level that is more affordable than Dollar General’s other locations. It expands Dollar General’s customer base, which could lead to continued growth.

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Best Buy joins growing list of retailers closing stores on Thanksgiving Day

CNBC reported that Best Buy is the latest retailer to announce that it will close its stores on Thanksgiving Day. For the second consecutive year, Black Friday deals will be offered online by the company. Best Buy joins an increasing number of retailers who are sharing holiday season plans. Target and Walmart will also close on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Friday was the traditional day for holiday shopping. However, retailers have been encouraging consumers to shop earlier, offering discounts in-store on Thanksgiving Day. The pandemic changed consumers’ shopping habits. Many opted to shop online and use curbside pickup. As a result, companies began offering discounts to customers online.

We don’t yet know what Best Buy’s plans are for Black Friday. However, millions of customers were able last year to shop online and pick up at curbside via Best Buy’s ecommerce site.

Total Retail’s View:Opening shops on Thanksgiving Day has been a topic of heated debate between retailers and store employees for many years. Some argue that the stores should remain closed throughout Thanksgiving so employees can spend more time with their families. Massachusetts and Maine have passed laws that prohibit big-box retailers opening on Thanksgiving. Retailers were not willing to refuse holiday shoppers who wanted to start shopping for Christmas, even though it was Thanksgiving Day. Customers, associates, and retailers would all benefit from Best Buy’s decision to close its stores on Thanksgiving and instead use the e-commerce site. Customers will still be able to shop as usual, while store associates will get a break during the holiday. Retailers will also still reach their sales goals.


It’s time to refine your value proposition, retailers

Retailers are facing a difficult time. According to a recent UBS report, 80,000 retail stores could close in the next five-years as the massive rise in online shopping caused by the pandemic leads to a permanent consumer buying behavior. UBS expects that the e-commerce market share of total retail sales will grow from 18% in 2020 to 27% by 2026.

These projections are creating anxiety in the retail industry. While those who rent or own real estate for a store might have increased their ecommerce operations to keep it afloat during this pandemic, they are now wondering what the future holds. It’s time to redefine your retail value proposition, whether you have a physical store, an online one, or both.

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How to Deliver Value to Customers

While retailers have been adapting to changing consumer behaviour for years, the sudden shift towards online shopping caused by COVID-19 is unprecedented. The virus swept away geographical boundaries in a way that will continue to reverberate long after it is under control. Retailers must rethink how they use commercial real estate.

Begin by understanding how your customers value you. Is your store a reliable distribution center that can handle the pandemic? People are buying online, so you need to get products to them as fast as possible. Focus on efficiency if so. If efficiency is your superpower, you can focus on home delivery, curbside pickup, or any other distribution method.

Perhaps the value that you offer is more experiential. Customers come to your store for an intimate experience that will last a lifetime. Focus on this even if you have increased online sales in the midst of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you know your customers and can deliver it effectively, you will thrive. Post-pandemic, there is no one-size fits all approach to customer service.

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One brand, multiple distribution channels

The notion that in-store and online purchases are distinct is another issue. Although the revenue streams can be reported separately in certain operations, in-store and online sales may be under different leadership. Customers see it all as one brand and they need to be able to identify any differences.

This isn’t a new problem. One example of this is a large department store where a customer tried to buy an item in-store at a lower price online, but was told that they would be better off ordering online. This might be a good idea for store bean-counters, who separate overhead costs for in-store and online operations. But it can be frustrating to customers.

Instead of trying to cannibalize sales from different channels, find out why your customers choose your store. This could be via e-commerce or in-person visits, or both. To show that you are a single brand with multiple distribution channels, align your revenue reporting. Your communication with customers must be consistent across all channels and reflect the brand’s value.

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Concentrate on the Places You’re Already Wining

The pandemic’s economic storm has not been a disaster for stores that survived. They have managed to stay in business. It’s now time to evaluate what this means for the world after the pandemic. Are you winning because of how efficient you distribute products or services? Keep delivering on your promise to customers because it resonates with them. Calculate the margins between curbside pickup and shipping. If one is the winner, it’s time for you to fine-tune your efforts. This is the time to ask and answer critical questions about your customer service and how it could be improved.

You might have achieved success by creating a personal in-store experience that customers enjoy. For now, you are keeping people safe by setting appointments or limiting capacity until everyone is back. You can be an experiential provider of value to customers, so take advantage of that success and keep innovating to ensure customers return, even if there are limitations to your capacity.

No matter what the future holds, customer service and the retailer’s value for a customer will remain a core component of the retail sector. Retailers that have an impact on customers’ lives whether they are in-person or online will be successful because they know their value and continue to improve their offerings. Retailers can create lasting relationships with customers by engaging on their preferred platforms, offering services in formats that suit customer needs, and providing seamless customer experiences across all distribution channels.


Five Trends that Will Shape the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Did it prove to be a difficult year for retailers individually? No doubt. In the last year, we saw many businesses close their doors. The overall trend is positive for brick-and-mortar retail. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, total retail sales increased by 6.9% in 2020 compared to 2019. ( via The Balance). 2020’s final take: $1.47 trillion.

Even with the impressive statistics, brick-and-mortar stores must make changes if they are to keep their momentum. This is especially true due to e-commerce’s growing market share.

Brick-and-mortar retail continues to have a great customer experience.

Paul Greenberg, the founder of NORA network, discusses the importance of creating the best customer experience. He says, “The in-store experience will remain deeply engaging, making that transformation from a transactional environment into an experiential and entertaining experience.”

We’ve seen a number of prominent trends in brick-and mortar retail, which reinforces the importance to create memorable in-location experiences. The State and Future of Consumer Behavior 2021 report showed that 90% of customers will return to your store after a positive experience. It’s also true that the reverse is true.

Your organization should be embracing the trends shaping retail today, from personalized customer journeys to offering unique in-store promos to personalizing your brand’s social media presence.

Maximizing both Online and Offline Customer Channels

Apps and online storesfronts allow brick-and-mortar businesses to compete with e-retailers in convenience.

Companies like Starbucks have used online channels — an application specifically — to cut down on wait times and improve customer experience. Customers are more likely to return Starbucks stores due to this ease of experience.

Apps and online channels are:

  • Ensure convenience
  • Provide data to personalize your customer journey
  • Promote loyalty programs and other brand features.
  • Add additional channels to increase sales and create memorable customer experiences

Omnichannel retail is a great way to benefit both your customers and your company.

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Make Your Organization a Socially Smart One

Shoppers will purchase directly from brands they have interacted with via social media. Title=”Opens in new window”> According to UPS, 34% of shoppers base their purchasing decisions on the influence of social media.

You can encourage your customers to share their experiences with you by providing touch points in-store.

  • Increase your brand’s online visibility
  • Become (or stay) socially relevant
  • Allow your customers to advertise for and with you
  • You can also find another route to purchase.
  • Encourage customers to share their experiences in-store on social media.

Digital signage can be used to display your social media channels in-store. Your online presence can also be used to direct customers to your store for unique experiences.

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Real-Time Promotions in Your Stores

Nearly one third (32.7%) of respondents said that price was the main determinant of their shopping habits. This factor was ahead of convenience and product availability as the main determinant in their shopping habits.

Customers will shop in your stores if they believe they can get exclusive discounts. In-store discounts in real time are a great way to build brand loyalty and increase revenue from repeat customers.

Provide Digital Resources to Enhance Customers’ Knowledge about Your Products and Services

Deloitte (p.4) describes how customers use digital tools such as price comparison websites and social media to make informed purchasing decisions.

You can manage the story that your customer hears and reads with digital resources in-store. To show your customers that you are the best value, compare their pricing with other competitors.

It is possible to provide detailed information about products so customers don’t feel the need for searching elsewhere.

Digital in-store resources empower customers and keep their attention on your products. You know that losing customers’ attention is the first step towards losing their business.

Hyperpersonalization in the Customer Journey

Deloitte (p.5) explains that personalization is key to creating new retail experiences. These are the experiences customers want.

Leading retailers have seen huge returns on their investments in intelligent software and artificial Intelligence (AI). Sephora uses AI to find the perfect shade for customers, while The North Face uses cognitive computing technology in order to match shoppers with the right jacket.

These are only two of the many innovative ways brick-and-mortar stores are improving the customer experience through technology-driven personalization.

Other forms of personalization worth looking into are loyalty programs, purchase recommendations and customer-exclusive discount.

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Tips to Prepare for the Future of Brick-and-Mortar

Retail is in good shape overall, but there is a growing gap between the industry leaders and those who are just hanging on.

These tips can help you achieve your goals, whether your goal is to increase your market-pacing or extend your lead over your competition.

1. Maximize customer buying paths

Nearly half (46.7%) of our customers reported that they purchased replacements online for items they had bought in-store during the pandemic.

Customers began to look for alternative purchasing options because of safety concerns. Many customers loved what they found. It turns out that there are perks to buying items via an app and then picking them up in-store, curbside or at home.

Customers will be less likely to shop at your store if they have multiple options.

2. Make your stores digital.

Digital stores are the future for retail. Digital signage is versatile and cost-effective technology that:

  • Customers can receive in-depth product descriptions
  • Social sharing and sales can be made easier
  • You can offer real-time discounts using QR codes or exclusive promo codes
  • You can direct customers to certain areas in your store;
  • can be used as self-checkout kiosks
  • You get many additional benefits.

Every customer benefits from digitally-digitized stores. Digital signage can be a great asset for anyone, from a social media influencer to someone who just wants to get into and out of your store quickly.

3. Personalize, personalize, personalize.

It is a great way to increase customer loyalty. Personalizing the customer experience means remembering their buying habits and offering discounts based on how often they shop.

McKinsey argues that there is no substitute for data-driven, tech assisted personalization of customer experiences. This should be considered by managers of in-location experiences when developing their organizational investment strategy.


Online appointments are the future of retail experiences

The pandemic has affected nearly every industry. We now have a year to look back on the past and make changes that might have made a difference. E-commerce boomed in the aftermath of the pandemic, thanks to state-mandated shutdowns and social distancing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, online sales rose 32 percent in 2020 over 2019. Census Bureau.

A shift occurred in the way that retailers adapt to new operations. Boutiques such as Warby Parker started offering one-on-1 shopping experiences and styling sessions in order to limit store capacity and reduce contact points. Warby Parker stores are open by appointment only. Customers can schedule their shopping sessions online. The customers simply went to Warby Parker’s website and found their nearest store. They then booked the one that works. The in-person and online shopping experience converged in an amazing way.

Many other companies have also adopted online appointments to solve the problem. Smart retailers recognize that sustainable retail is not about selling products. The consumer wants a pleasant shopping experience. This doesn’t mean crowded stores or waiting in line outside. Online appointments allow retailers to engage with their customers through convenience and provide the safety that we need in this post-pandemic world.

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Online scheduling software allows shoppers to book appointments from anywhere, anytime, using their smartphones, tablets, or computers. Online scheduling is a time-saver for retailers and increases your visibility of available appointments. It also keeps you open even when your store closes. These technologies also offer critical customer-facing tech such as automated appointment confirmations and reminders, as well as integration with social media. These features extend the reach of retailers’ ability to “own customer experience from beginning to end.” This includes the instant that consumers see your Instagram post and decide to book an appointment. The automated reminders and confirmations they receive the day before are crucial to customer loyalty and building a sustainable retail business.

Online scheduling is a must for retailers that are trying to reopen and adjust to the post-pandemic environment. If you aren’t convinced, there are three ways that online scheduling can increase efficiency in your business.

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  1. Schedule employees effectively. Retailers can use self-service scheduling to give customers visibility into their arrival times and the assistance they require. With this data, retailers can correctly size staff.
  2. Customize your service. Retailers have the option to make online appointments and ask about the nature of their upcoming visit. This information will help staff to prepare for customers’ needs. It’s personal service. This level of care and attention can make customers feel valued. They can also reduce the time spent in-store and speed up the sales cycle, which allows customers to have more appointments while still respecting their time.
  3. Gain a better understanding of your business. Online scheduling software gives retailers access to a lot of information about the current state of their business. You can easily run reports on date ranges, individual staff members, and the popularity and sales cycles associated with each SKU. What are you selling? What are you selling? Do you see patterns in traffic that should be capitalized on but are not?

Many consumers will accept any return to normalcy, and they will immediately resume in-person shopping. Others will be more cautious and have new priorities and preferences. Although appointment-based shopping was initially developed as a way to combat the pandemic, its simplicity, personalization potential, and convenience should make it a priority for smart sellers. Online scheduling brings the convenience of online shopping to the familiarity and comfort of in-person experiences. It also helps build brand awareness. This is not a new trend in commerce, but it has been a long-standing pattern. This enhancement should be added to the customer service toolbox of retailers who have not already. You will be able to increase efficiency in your retail operations and offer more flexibility to your customers.


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