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COVID-19 Crisis: How retailers can win consumers post lockdown

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India is working hard towards flattening the coronavirus curve. Nonetheless, many sectors have been hit hard, among them hospitality, aviation and retail. As per an industry report, going ahead, the world economy is going to become a low-touch economy, physical spaces will have a different positioning and consumer behaviour will also change.
Speaking on how the retail sector will shape up post lockdown, Rakesh Biyani, Managing Director, Future Retail said, “Countries like China have reopened their retail industry and shopping malls and 70-80 percent of business is back in action, however, e-commerce has evolved to a great extent. In malls, strict social distancing norms are followed. Similarly, Germany opened a few days ago, but it is nowhere close to normalcy. In India, we will have to wait and watch.”
“Malls and retailers are putting their best foot forward to provide a sanitised place to the consumers. As malls will be the safest places for shopping, they should be the first to be reopened. Going ahead, e-commerce will continue to be an alternative medium, however, it will have to reinvent itself and it cannot continue to be a discount channel any longer,” he added.
Explaining this further, Mukesh Kumar, Vice President Infiniti Malls, said, “We are working on SOPs like reducing number of tables in restaurant, reducing number of people entering malls, regular sanitization and a lot more to ensure safety of consumers. After getting a get go from the government, it will take at least 1-2 months for the things to get back to normal.”
“Initially, F&B will take a hit, but will bounce back strongly,” he added.
Resonating the same thoughts, Pushpa Bector, Executive Director DLF Shopping Malls said, “Bars will be specially impacted. Cinemas are also talking about social distancing and the occupancy will go down further.”
QSRs and restaurants maintaining high hygiene are bouncing back quickly in some countries.
Is Collaboration on The Cards?
Jamshed K Daboo, Managing Director, Trent Hypermarket said, “In food and grocery space, a lot of collaborations are expected as group companies will be looking at different ways to channelise their synergies.”
Bector added, “It is a time to collaborate with retailers to get consumer confidence back. We have to share the pain with the retailers. In China, consumers are coming back to malls despite social distancing norms. Similarly, for Indian malls, there will be strict norms to adhere to. We will be looking at investing in magic mirrors to improve consumer experience and ensure contactless services.”
“Fashion which is sustainable and tech-based will gain more traction. Consumers will be concerned about the source of the product. Fast fashion will lose the momentum and made in India will gain an impetus,” she further added.
“India was never dependant on consumption from outside. The serious buyer will come to the mall and we have to provide a safe place for him/her,” said, Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Development Corporation.
Innovation – The Key to Success
In future, companies providing innovative 360-degree experience to customers will survive.
“Reinventing the business model is the need of hour, contactless delivery is the new trend. Business model of foodservice players is going to change post reopening. Many restaurants will be shutting down. Unemployment will be a big issue,” said Sagar Daryani, Co-founder and CEO, Wow! Momo.
Wow Momo! Has recently introduced Wow! Momo Essentials where the brand delivers the essentials to consumers in four cities – Kolkata, Delhi/ NCR, Bengaluru and Chennai.
Discounting – Will It Be A Good Deal?
Keeping in mind the current situation, cash is the king. Retailers are still deciding how to put the available cash to the maximum use. Will discounting the current Spring-Summer collection a wise decision.
“Consumers will get to see the fresh stocks as the lockdown opens as no one has seen the collection earlier,” said Biyani.
“Retailers should not offer huge discounts as soon as the lockdown opens as it is against the guidelines of controlling crowds,” added Daboo.
Will Diwali Bring Back Cheers?
In India, Major Brands is very optimistic that retail will bounce back.
According to Tushar Ved, President, Major Brands, “If Diwali and marriage season goes well, which means 70 percent of last year, markets will regain its glory in January. There will be more sales happening over the period but not immediately.”
“We were planning to bring a new brand and that will only be happening coming next year in 2nd or 3rd quarter. We will just be completing the stores under fitouts and no new stores on the cards currently,” he added.
Learning from Other Countries
In GCC, consumers are buying more apparel than footwear. They are also buying home decorative items. In malls, customer is not asking for help and more credit card transactions are taking place. Only serious customers are coming to the malls.
Restaurants are opened only for delivery and social distancing norms are followed.
“GCC thinks in 12-18 months things will come back to normal,” said Ved.

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