As Britain’s ‘non-essential’ retailers prepare to reopen their doors in the coming weeks, one of the biggest challenges they face will be convincing shoppers to walk through the door. And, no, I don’t just mean from a safety perspective; I’m talking about the additional friction that shoppers will inevitably encounter.
Will customers queue up to enter a department store? Will they want to pop in to a clothing store if they can’t try stuff on? Will they accept less choice on shelves as retailers make space for social distancing measures? If they have picked up a book off the shelf, will they remember to then place it on the special quarantine cart? This might all be worth the hassle – if there was no such thing called the internet.
Don’t get me wrong. Bricks & mortar retailers should get a much-needed initial boost when they reopen. These are uncharted waters, but pent-up demand must be a given when consumers themselves are pent up for months. We are social creatures, and the notion of ‘going shopping’ is inherently a leisure activity. The high street retailers that have thus far survived the so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ are those that focus on all the things shoppers can’t get online – inspiration, discovery, curation, community, experience.
In my latest for Forbes, I explore how this will look in a post-COVID world. Has ‘experiential retail’ finally been relegated to the buzzword archives? Has a pandemic killed the art of browsing? You can read the full article here.