Like most industries, retail has had an interesting time of it as of late. Outside of essential retail like supermarkets – or the home improvement sector – many retailers have been forced to move to an online-focused model and are keeping their stores shut, especially in the fashion space.
So what do you do if you’re a retailer that has a boat-load of old stock to shift, combined with a fast-fashion cycle that sees looks date at a rapid rate, a newly cautious shopper, and limits on store capacity? Oh, and don't forget the hundreds of thousands of Australians out of work with little to no discretionary income.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are several things we think retailers can do to boost sales, keep customers safe and re-employ staff so that they can open their doors with more confidence.
Introduce appointment times
This not only gives queue-haters an easier option but improves the in-store experience with personalised shopping and one-on-one attention from sales assistant. We are starting to see smaller retailers adopt this model, such as Sydney-based jeweller Toni May. Apps such as Safe Queue are also making it possible for retailers to manage traffic with virtual lines, where customers are sent an alert when they are allowed to come into the store.
Shift out-of-season stock to online clearance sales
Every fashion retailer knows floorspace is a major pain point. New stock comes in before the old stock is depleted and it becomes a battle between accommodating more stocks yet leaving enough room for the beloved sale section.
Sending 50-75 per cent of out-of-season stock back to warehouses combined with a digital sales push will leave stores free to sell new season stock. Not only is it a win for online consumers, increasing availability and size-range, it prevents retailers from dumping stock with zero return. Cotton On has done just this, shifting all discounted stock from its stores to an online mega sale, freeing up the stores for new stock just as its doors re-opened in early May.
Limit contact with kerbside click-and-collect
With limits on the number of people allowed in the store, having a dedicated outside-store pick up spot for click-and-collect orders reduces wait times and leaves in-store spots for customers who are browsing.
Officeworks, Bunnings and Mitre 10 are great examples here, providing a contactless click-and-collect experience. Staff members scan the order barcode through a rolled-down window and load items into the boot for customers.
Offer VR consultations and showrooms
The beauty industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 and some have been quicker to respond than others. Mecca quickly moved to virtual consultations, using FaceTime to provide colour swatches, skin checks, and product recommendations. King Living turned its Annandale showroom into a virtual one, capturing each product and tagging them with relevant information. Can you sit on the sofas and pretend to eat at the dining tables? No. But in COVID-19 world, this might be as good as it gets.
It’s definitely going to be a tough period for retailers, and only time will tell just how big an impact C-19 will have on consumer behaviour. But for now it’s about opening doors, minimising losses and re-employing staff.