Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are being eased. More people are becoming vaccinated. Upbeat economic news is reported. Unemployment figures are improving. Restaurants are preparing for diners to return. And of course, given that we are now starting to compare sales results to the meltdowns of 2020, dramatic percentage growth is being reported and forecast for the balance of the year.
These positive and optimistic news reports all are very welcome. Retailers are eager to see customers return.
But what should retailers expect? To brace yourself for the myriad changes.
- Some shops will have moved out; new businesses may have moved in; spaces have been downsized, new buildings may have sprung up.
- Plus, if you are near offices, the "hybrid" schedules accommodating work from home arrangements will affect the number of people near your store each day.
- Partly drawn by your different neighbors, but primarily drawn by pent-up shopping desire, customers in all markets are going to be decidedly different than they were pre-pandemic.
In other words, everything has changed.
Which means it is absolutely essential, whether you have one store, 25 stores, or 100+ stores, for senior management to be in a store each day, seeing for yourself what is happening. "On the selling floor, from 11 to 4" must prevail.
Why? You must be able to respond more quickly to this new and challenging environment.
- Real merchants know that you cannot wait a couple of weeks to get some computer printout report.
- The in-person, real life, real time observations you and your key people make can enable you to recognize that you must react and respond with unprecedented speed.
- If you don't, your "new" customers will find other places to shop very quickly. You decide.
You will find yourself energized by all this, plus surprisingly informed by participating in the retail activity. What better way to "listen to the shopper"?
The best merchants are also leaders of their organization, and lead by example. There can be an enviable ripple effect among your staff that will serve you well. And wear a smile. It will brighten the selling floor!
Your customers – whether long-standing or new – will relish the results of it.