Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

The fundamental changes in high street retail due to COVID-19

Mark Fletcher
May 19th, 2020 · No Comments

COVID-19 likes crowds, it likes people who don’t know each other to be physically close, not intimate, just close enough for the coronavirus to jump person to person.

Proximity is toxic and will remain so until there is a vaccine, if there is ever a vaccine.

Shops cannot be crowded, and if shops cannot be crowded, there is a risk more shoppers spend more money online.

This is why having an online strategy is critical. But it must be multi-faceted: delivery, click and collect, curbside pickup and curated for faster shopping. These options and more are critical for the new retail in this COVID world.

Online businesses need to be managed separately, with their own performance goals. They need to be focussed on reaching ne new shoppers for the parent business.

Proximity being toxic is also why having clear and well managed in-store strategies, too. Making shopping safe and to be seen to be safe is critical to encourage trust among shoppers and would-be shoppers.

It would be easy to say physical shopping is done and shopping has migrated to online. That is what many ‘experts’ are saying in articles. I don’t agree. I think local high street retail is in good shape where retailers have what people want, offer safe shopping experiences and are community connected.

Both needs are critical – online and refreshed in-store. It’s easy to think that the majors will win this. For sure, there will be media stories about this because the majors have PR offices placing stories. The reality is that innovation is as present in small business high street shops. Many of them have embraced online and recast their in-store experiences.

The retailers doing to best, in my view, are those that have embraced the new models in ways that feel natural, that feel more than short-term. These retailers have evolved their businesses with nuance.

So, while there is plenty of noise about things getting back to normal, they are not and cannot. The new normal, for the foreseeable future, is shops being structured for safe shopping and these businesses also offering a separate online presence to reach shoppers outside of the usual reach of the business.

Opportunities abound for engaged, data-driven, retailers.

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Category: Social responsibility

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