The COVID-19 pandemic has caused momentous disruptions among the brick-and-mortar retailers in the West, especially in the USA and the UK. Many of them have had to down their shutters. Retailers like J. C. Penny, Sears, Neiman Marcus, Toys R Us, Circuit City, etc., have packed up. Customers were shifting to online purchases, prior to the pandemic. The pandemic accelerated the slide towards eCommerce, triggered by protracted lockdowns.
The decision of John Lewis Department stores in the UK, last week, to reduce its outlets by a third from the 50 prior to the lockdown, has caused heartburn, anger, and unhappiness among consumers. The closure of the Shef eld store signals that many other retailers are also evaluating how much physical store space they really need, post the pandemic. Online sales which comprised 20 to 30 percent of sales are now around 50 percent.
Organised Retail’s Relevance
Retailers selling through physical stores will thus have to struggle to remain relevant. They will have to win the hearts of their consumers and provide exhilarating experiences. Retailers will also have to be relevant ethically and socially, to retain the loyalty of their customers.
Now, the key priority of retailers is to lure customers back to the malls and shopping centers, as lockdowns ease. Organized retailers like supermarkets and shopping centres can play a major role in fostering rapid vaccinations. Governments will disburse vaccines to corporations and private organisations, as availability improves, for administering them. Covid-19 vaccination camps were piloted in Gurugram in high-rise condominiums. This project is now being extended nationally. A new pilot is being initiated in Gurugram, wherein private sector companies will establish vaccination camps on their premises, to vaccinate employees. Organised retailers should also partner and play a proactive role in this historic vaccination drive.
Retailers can offer jabs to their customers at their premises, when they visit, as the availability of vaccines improves. The retailers will have to source authorised health workers and galvanise equipment and waiting areas. Pharmacies in the malls and shopping centres can spearhead vaccinations. Walmart’s 5,000 pharmacies in the USA, have offered to administer 1o to 13 million vaccines a month, after they are freely available.
Global Retailers: Pivotal Role
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