We really shouldn’t have been all that surprised by the ever-increasing number of retail stores that are closing up for the short-term, waiting out the coronavirus pandemic. When museums, amusement parks, schools and even entire cities and towns shutting down, it was inevitable that stores would be next.
That results in two questions: what happens to retailing while the stores are closed? And secondly, what happens after they reopen? The first question produces predictable results. Those who want to buy things – out of need, boredom or diversion from being quarantined – will shift their purchases online and e-commerce will make some dramatic market share gains in the interim. Those retailers with sub-par online businesses will suffer…some dramatically if the closings extend beyond the initial two weeks being announced so far.
Of far more long-term consequence is what happens when things start to return to normal. In previous disruptions we’ve seen seminal changes in purchasing patterns – in society itself – after the dust settles a bit. Will certain retailers never regain their businesses? Will e-commerce retain its market share gains? Will the deterioration of shopping malls and other larger areas of congregation fully gain velocity further signaling their demise?
We won’t know all the answers for some time, certainly not until the holiday season at the end of the year. But it’s safe to say things will be different than they would have been without this pandemic.
In an era of incredible uncertainty, you can be certain of that.
Award-winning Journalist & Consultant for the retailing and home furnishings industries with extensive business media experience in both fields.