Retailers Must Prepare for Transformation Post-COVID
Images Retail|October 2020
With rapidly evolving consumer preferences and attitudes, businesses and retailers are embracing the change and preparing for transformation in order to provide a seamless shopping experience to consumers in the COVID and post-COVID eras…
Charu Lamba

Bimal Sharma, Head – Retail, Advisory & Transactions Services, CBRE

Till last year, retail was an industry that was steadily growing and progressing. However, the pandemic brought a major paradox in the consumer sentiments affecting the industry in an unprecedented way.

The retail industry in Q1 and Q2 2020 witnessed the impact of the outbreak with multiple challenges arising in the business operations due to lockdown and social distancing norms.

With the unlocking and reopening of markets across the country during the end of Q2 have brought a transformation to the continuously evolving retail ecosystem in India, retailers are strategising and adapting to new market trends.

With rapidly evolving consumer preferences and attitudes, businesses and retailers are embracing the change and preparing for transformation in order to provide a seamless shopping experience to consumers in the COVID and post COVID eras.

In an interaction with IMAGES Retail, Bimal Sharma, Head - Retail, Advisory & Transactions Services, CBRE South Asia Pvt Ltd. shares challenges and way forward for the retail sector.

Excerpts from the interview:

How have different retail categories been performing? Give us a comparative evaluation, both from the shopping centre and high-street perspective?

In the past six months, as there were limited opportunities/ occasions for people to step out, they have been restricted mainly to basic and urgent necessities. With reopening taking places in phased manner, shopping centres have again started witnessing activities and consumers have started indulging by going a little beyond their urgent necessities. The categories we have noticed trending better than others are electronics, home, sports and athleisure.

Shopping centres have had an advantage over high streets as consumers prefer to visit a mall for an inclusive experience of shopping, food, cinema etc., apart from conveniences like parking and ambience. However, in the past six months, high-streets have emerged as a preferred destination for shoppers vis-à-vis malls due to the extended lockdowns, plus perceived lower risk, considering lower touchpoints/ interaction with people.

Meanwhile, due to the approaching festival season and economic activity picking up pace, we can hope that Q4 might bring back customers to malls under the prescribed safety norms. It is important to note here that in the pre-COVID era, multiplexes played a key role in the success of shopping centers and it has been seen that malls have often improved performance by over 25 percent, when a good multiplex opens in a shopping centre.

In the short to medium term, we expect retailers at both shopping centres and high-streets to adopt various marketing strategies to increase engagement with existing customers and visibility across their target audience, leading to improved performances.

How is retail evolving with work from home, lockdown and unlock phases? How are retailers modifying their way?

Retailer strategies are evolving at a faster pace than ever before, owing to the continuous change in assumptions and analysis in this continued COVID-19 era. Omnichannel strategies, innovative utilisation of spaces and a push for e-retailing are all becoming important in this work from home stage.

The integration between offline and online retail is likely to grow further as pure-click enterprises are opening offfine stores while brick-and-mortar stores are enhancing their online presence. Last-mile stores are expected to gain further traction in the coming year, as newer business formats emerge that allow consumers to order groceries, dairy items, and necessities online and pick them up from stores.

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