Retail stores struggle to support and attract customers


Anne D’Innocenzio, Associated Press

Posted at 5:59 p.m. ET April 12, 2020 | Update 6:35 p.m. ET April 12, 2020


div role = “main” itemprop = “mainEntity articleBody”>


Long before there was a coronavirus pandemic, brick and mortar retailers struggled to get people to walk through their doors instead of shopping online.

Now, these retailers are faced with an even more herculean task: how to keep people’s minds – and more importantly, their wallets – when many doors to their stores are closed.

More than 250,000 stores such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Nike that sell non-essential merchandise have temporarily closed since mid-March in response to the pandemic. This represents 60% of the total store space in the United States, according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

“The retailer has hung a sign literally and metaphorically closed,” said Saunders. “This is the most catastrophic crisis the retail industry has faced – worse than the 2008 financial crisis, worse than September 11. Almost overnight, the retail economy has gone from the things people want to the things they need. “

Some retailers have taken up the challenge by offering creative ways to stay relevant. Nike introduced training apps to China when the coronavirus first appeared, resulting in an 80% increase in users during the quarter and a 30% increase in online sales. He is pushing a similar campaign in the United States and Europe.

Necessity and inventions: How these entrepreneurs are adapting to a pandemic

Yoga pants maker Lululemon is hosting online classes in North America and Europe after gaining thousands of followers in China on WeChat. Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald told analysts that during his first week of closings in the United States, he had seen nearly 170,000 customers join Lululemon for its live classes.

A store displays a notice: “Sorry, we are closed due to COVID-19. “ (Photo: Getty Images)

Small businesses rotate to keep their customers. Camp, a new toy chain that sets itself apart from online retailers by doubling the physical experience, hosts virtual birthday parties and creates gift boxes organized now that its five stores have gone into obscurity. Politics and Prose, a popular Washington bookstore, was forced to close temporarily and began broadcasting discussions with authors online and offering a curbside pickup service.

“Many bookstores are known as safe havens for comfort and comfort in difficult times,” said Bradley Graham, co-owner of the bookstore. “But a pandemic is not like other crises. In a medical crisis like this, the idea of ​​bringing people together becomes anathema. “

PPP loan plan: A mess for small businesses in the face of the coronavirus crisis

Quarantine does not discourage visits to vineyards: The vineyards offer virtual tastings during the closing period

Even discounters and wholesale clubs like Walmart and Costco that stay open so customers can buy essentials like groceries and toilet paper have changed their offerings to focus on household items rather than on the shelves of trendy clothes elsewhere in their stores.

Many clothing retailers in shopping malls such as Gap, Kohl’s and Macy’s who were struggling before the pandemic have failed to successfully turn to the web only. Although they have increased their presence – clothing accounted for about 27% of online sales last year – their businesses are not designed to keep their stores closed for such a long time.

As spring goods pile up, nowhere to go, many chains are cutting prices by 40% to 70%. Gap and Ralph Lauren temporarily stopped ordering for the fall season, having no clear idea of ​​when the stores will reopen. Many retailers announced late last month that they should stop paying the majority of their employees to keep their money, although they will continue to cover their health benefits.

Forrester Research retail analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said most mall-based retailers do not accept services such as curbside deliveries, which could help them keep at least some sales during the pandemic. She said they should create online content to attract their loyal credit card customers, although she admitted that they were in survival mode.

Coresight Research predicts that 15,000 stores in the U.S. will close permanently this year, setting a record and almost doubling its previous forecast of 8,000 store closings.

Global brands are looking to China, which is slowly emerging from the pandemic, to see what the future holds for it. Brick and mortar retailers reopen gradually, but face possible permanent loss of customers from fast-growing online rivals after millions of families have been confined to their homes for months in a country that is already l ‘one of the largest electronic commerce markets.

E-commerce accounted for 21.5% of retail sales in January and February, up 5% from the previous year. In contrast, e-commerce accounted for about 10 percent of retail spending in the United States last year, according to the Commerce Department.

Overall, e-commerce sales in the United States rose 38% from March 12 to 31, compared to their baseline from March 1 to 11, the week before the World Health Organization announces that COVID-19 was a pandemic, according to the most recent figures from Adobe Analytics.

For Lee Walzer, 56, a lawyer in Arlington, Virginia, shopping has not been a priority, whether online or in-store. He only buys essentials in his grocery store and on Amazon while he works and works from home.

“I buy food and not much more,” said Walzer. “Financially, nobody knows what the economic landscape will look like in the coming months. Suddenly, the world really shrank. It certainly has a big business impact for me. “

Collaborators: Joseph Pisani in New York and Joe McDonald in Beijing.

Read or share this story:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here