The new attraction of shopping local

The new attraction of shopping local

Retail - Workplace April 2020

Retail, but not as you know it

Experts say it takes 21 days to change a habit, so New Zealand’s enforced six-week-plus lockdown has well and truly shaken people’s shopping routines and retail patterns.

There’s been a tangible reset of values and actions and Bayleys National Director of Retail Sales and Leasing, Chris Beasleigh, says the retail sector’s response to the COVID-19 restrictions and protocols has been interesting to observe.

“While we acknowledge that despite Government assistance some businesses will inevitably succumb to the pressures and must exit the sector, others have shown resilience and entrepreneurship in adversity.

“And the concept of ‘shop local’ has taken on new meaning in these unusual times.

“It’s been heartening to see local businesses pivoting their offerings to meet Alert Level guidelines and to watch social media channels championing support of those businesses close to home.”

The words we’re hearing today in the retail sector include authenticity, buy local, curb-side collection, contactless delivery, social distancing and Beasleigh says the next nine months or so will be telling times in retail.

“Once we are allowed to physically shop beyond essential services, I think we’ll see local neighbourhood shopping centres take on more relevance, the ‘High Street’ will have renewed appeal, while expansive retail centres which thrive on high footfall volumes will take a hit.

“Social distancing expectations and limited gathering numbers will likely take the shine off big mall retail for some time as customers approach shopping with new caution and ditch their usual in-store browsing habits.”

Beasleigh says retail businesses that have swivelled their operation to mesh with the new and restricted (for now) environment, have been able to keep some cashflow going.

“The move to Alert Level 3 is still very restrictive for bricks and mortar retailers and for those businesses without a robust and flexible online presence, it’s going to be tough,” he says.

“We’ve seen many businesses amplifying and adapting their existing online platforms for compliance and new opportunities while others – not accustomed to e-commerce dealings – have had to jump into unknown territory to get up and running online.

“Some really innovative app-based solutions have emerged out of necessity and some entrepreneurial personalities have been emerging in communities – keen to bring local business to the door for locked-down residents.”

Omnichannel business has, for years now, been touted as being the way forward for retailers, but Beasleigh says it’s taken a global pandemic for some in the sector to realise the benefits of this model and to go beyond their comfort zones.

“New Zealand has lagged internationally in terms of embracing fully the online retail world,” says Beasleigh.

“The tide has turned now and, as Sir Michael Hill said recently in an interview, this pandemic could be the impetus for setting audacious business goals.”

Will we ever go back to the retail landscape that we once had?

“I think we will observe a marked change in retail behaviours with consumers making more conscious and informed decisions around where they want to shop, how they want to socialise, who they want to support and how much they want – or can afford – to spend,” says Beasleigh.

“The retail sector is in for an interesting ride, for sure.”

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