The COVID-19 pandemic has completely rehashed what we knew was retail. The pandemic has plunged the industry into a crisis of unprecedented proportions and completely changed the way businesses will be compelled to function from hereon. As lockdown restrictions are eased and fashion retail resumes business again it’s clear that the change required is significant – as is the potential opportunity across segments.
For a fashion brand or retailer to bounce back after the lockdown is lifted, they will have to be attentive about the shifts in market sentiments to identify possible opportunities and attune themselves accordingly. Failure to adopt to market changes may have devastating effects. A good example is Clarks – the British heritage footwear retailer. Failure to adapt has left Clarks in a weak position to withstand the COVID-19 crisis and it has recently announced that it is cutting almost 1,000 head office roles.
Among potential opportunities, experts believe that COVID-19 crisis has given great impetus to convergence, collaboration and co-creation. “We should acknowledge our strengths and should focus on partnering by utilizing others’ business acumen. If there is an opportunity in terms of resources and space, then retailers must coordinate and collaborate. I for one would not mind collaborating with new categories like medicine, beauty, wellness or even salons, which will enhance services at my stores. It is the time to accelerate collaboration over competition,” says Lalit Agarwal, CMD, V-Mart Retail.
COVID-19 has also resulted in a spike in increased online shopping globally. Setting-up of online platforms has become indispensable for offline stores, and the offline-to-online integration is expected to increase at a greater and faster rate. This represents a real and immediate opportunity to centralize operations and drive efficiencies digitally.
Brands like Bestseller, who operates 4 brands, across its website, app, 6+ online marketplaces, 300+ branded stores and 1,000+ multi-brand stores has focused efforts to centralize its operations. Bestseller has signed up with Unicommerce in a bid to streamline its operations by ensuring unified visibility of e-commerce operations and inventory across marketplaces and it’s e-commerce website and app. The platform has been seamlessly integrated with Bestseller’s ERP solution, automating the entire fulfillment process.
“Our partnership with Unicommerce is another step towards ensuring great customer experience by enabling faster deliveries and seamless online shopping experience. Unicommerce is one of the best e-commerce supply chain solution and it has been seamlessly integrated with our SAP ERP. The platform will also help us in faster decision making, smoother business execution, and accelerated growth,” says Ranjan Sharma, CIO and Head of Supply Chain, Bestseller India.
At the same time, this crisis has highlighted the importance of investment in enabling technologies. Apart from like cloud, data, Artificial Intelligence, post pandemic retail will also necessitate the use of in-store technologies like Interactive Fitting Rooms (Magic Mirrors), Mobile POS Systems, Virtual Reality, etc. Post Pandemic, these in-store technologies can mitigating the risk of physical contact and help increase convenience for shoppers.