The outbreak of COVID-19 has already changed the way businesses across sectors function. Companies are re-strategizing and re-structuring their internal models and business plans so that they are able to efficiently get back on track when the pandemic is behind us and the economy has revived. With people observing social distancing in India and staying at home to help curb the spread of the disease, the retail sector has taken a big hit with offline stores and malls remaining shut. Being part of the footwear industry, companies like ours are introducing innovative and productive ways to be better prepared in times of a crisis like this. The priority of most businesses is how to retain their customer base by adapting to new and emerging trends that will be here to stay post COVID-19.
Health For All
Most organizations have prioritized the health and safety of their employees and customers over everything else. Special health helplines have been set up that are monitored on a real time basis. Warehouses, stores, office premises and even footwear are being sanitized. Special teams are being put in place to train front-end and back-end staff on adopting all necessary safety with no room for compromise. Going forward, this will be the norm as it will be a while before people are able to move around freely without fear. The footwear industry will be more conscious of providing a safe and healthy environment for both customers in stores as well as employees.
Consumer Buying Patterns
The current situation has taught us that a crisis can come in any shape and form, and if one is not well-prepared, can cause dire consequences. Thankfully, we have the digital medium to fall back on at a time like this. There is a general sense that even post lockdown, the situation will not normalize to what it was before COVID-19. Increased shopping on e-commerce platforms will be the new norm, with even those averse to buying online, jumping on to the bandwagon. Though online stores are expected to see a steep rise, offline stores may take longer duration to get back their usual sales. Because of the slowdown in the economy, people will hold on to their disposable incomes and only spend on what is necessary. As a result, we are expecting muted festive and wedding sales. Big ticket purchases will be pushed by a few quarters. We plan to focus more on the basic and affordable footwear section during this time. Another trend we see picking up is foot care accessories such as shoe sprays which will help in footcare and maintaining foot hygiene. The demand of customers will stem from their need for hygiene and cleanliness in everything they purchase.
At such an uncertain time like this when the future cannot be foreseen, cash conservation by individuals and corporates is the biggest mantra. We are all in an internal huddle mode to work on strategies wherein their current fixed costs such as, rent, retainers, etc. can be moved to variable costs. Rentals for all stores are being renegotiated. Companies are also partnering with other brands to share manpower. Since imports have been disrupted for many International brands, companies are already working on strategies to maximize sourcing of products from within India. This will reduce transportation, logistics and other related costs to a huge extent. Sourcing from withing India, will also contribute towards helping the economy grow.
Though the pandemic has brought with it a certain fear, uncertainly and regard for health, it has also, in many ways, reset the world. Once the economic stability has returned and businesses have bounced back, there will be very important lessons learnt that I hope will elevate the footwear industry to a much better place in the future.