COVID-19 has taught apparel retailers some very important lessons and that is: shifting retail online can be lucrative. Many retailers like China’s JD.com and India’s Arvind shifted operations to online platforms and emerged successfully from this crisis. Similarly, SMEs either ventured online on their own or joined large retailers such as Amazon and Flipkart, as a seller on their marketplace, thus gaining access to a slarge pre-existing customer base.
The pandemic also highlighted the importance of having delivery partners for retailers. Many offline stores entered logistics partnerships during COVID-19 due to acute manpower shortage. For example, Indian stores tied up with Zomato to supply groceries to consumers. Some retailers tapped RWAs to make bulk deliveries to housing societies.
New delivery concepts
Another strategy adopted by brick-and-mortar outlets included deploying third party carriers to ensure product delivery. However, this increased
transportation costs for retailers. Hence, retailers have now decided to use the concept of ‘crowd sourcing’ in tandem with GPS technology and real-time notifications and get customers to be present in stores to make the last mile delivery.
The pandemic also encouraged retailers to introduce stringent measures to restore their consumers’ confidence. Brick and mortar stores launched new initiatives such as home delivery services, continuous sanitization of all outlets and warehouses, regular employee health checkups and doorstep e-payment facility. They also made masks and gloves mandatory for all employees coming in contact with the merchandise and introduced social distancing measures in their stores and warehouses.
Testing facilities at stores
Retailers also introduced testing facilities for customers using thermal scanners at entry points. They also deployed hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and shoe covers at their stores and ensured regular sanitization of handles and buttons, fumigation of the store area and provision of UV sterilization and sanitization tunnels. Some of the other measures taken by them included stocking FMCG goods at multiple points in large format stores, making pre-packs available for quick checkouts, restricting customer entries, allotting special timings for senior citizens, introducing a token system, one way aisles and self-checkouts at stores.
These initiatives coupled with a move to online platforms are making survival easy for brick and mortar stores. Hence, it is important for them to not forget the lessons learnt from the pandemic and be prepared for future calamities.