The long-awaited re-opening of shop doors comes with the even bigger anticipation of turmoil within the next 12 months as retailers regain their feet in an uncertain climate.
Lockdown has had a substantial and unprecedented impact on the retail sector. In the last few months, Debenhams has entered administration for the second time and retailers such as Oasis, Warehouse and Cath Kidston are looking set to follow suit. The retailers who have survived lockdown have already overcome a challenging time and yet, the biggest challenge is still to come.
As retailers adopt a survival of the fittest mentality, each business decision is a critical step towards a healthy balance sheet post-lockdown and beyond.
The nature of the high street is unrecognisable in comparison to the one before. In an initial rush to get to the newly opened stores, shoppers have been forming long social-distanced queues and finding that their usual social activity does not offer the same experience that they were accustomed to before. Initially, this will create a surge of custom on the high street as the desire to shop to enjoy some normalcy will keep them walking through the doors.
However, as consumers adjust to these new processes, the appeal of online shopping may be far more attractive than queuing and hitting the high street. Whether on the high street or online, consumers have shifted their spending habits during lockdown, some are spending less overall and some are choosing to spend more in home improvements and DIY stores over fashion stores.
The retailers who are the most adaptable overall to consumer behavioural patterns within their online and offline business strategy will be the ones who prosper. This is nothing new as retailers have faced a number of years of having to adapt to a rapidly changing retail environment such as the rise in online shopping. Investing in a strong e-commerce strategy to drive sales to balance the books on the high street will continue to be important as much as it was before and during lockdown.
Many retailers extended the timeframe on returns policies during lockdown to give shoppers the chance to return unwanted items. Retailers can hope that any returned items and subsequent refunds will also be balanced out by the allure of a summer season of shopping. As the novelty of the high-street wears off, online shopping will remain as the most reliable source of profits.
With this in mind, there are some things retailers should consider to maximise online revenue streams. Firstly, online shop windows will do well to remain tailored to a new, adapted lifestyle that people are adjusting to. Pyjamas, loungewear, working from home outfits and homeware may be some of the items that consumers will prioritise spending on for some time, particularly as the end of lockdown is not yet in sight.
As some items, such as summer clothes and beach accessories, remain collecting dust on the shelves, retailers must think about ways of re-marketing them for staycations or next summer’s fashion! This is the same for the Spring season fashion that no one saw. As this stock is perfectly sellable in quality, sending this to landfill along with the other unsold items each year is both a waste financially and environmentally, but is still the reality of some retailer’s business strategies.
Finding a new buyer for out of season or unwanted stock is simple with the right tools. B-Stock is currently helping a number of UK retailers to find the right buyers on its secondary marketplace. With competition on these platforms between buyers, retailers are able to drive higher prices for the high-quality stock left sitting in warehouses. This is a golden opportunity for retailers to fill the gap in sales during a time of increased uncertainty.