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Pandemic Accelerates Need for Retailer Adaptation

  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers were already under pressure to adapt to changing customer tastes
  • The pandemic has accelerated demand for amenities with enduring appeal
  • Some retailers have been decimated by the pandemic, but others are planning to expand

Retail stores have taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both small businesses and major chains have contracted or gone bankrupt following prolonged shutdowns and a migration of customers online. But retailers were already facing pressure from e-commerce before the pandemic, and many have discovered newfound success by adapting new features with enduring appeal.

Some brands have developed creative ways to engage customers while observing safety protocols, such as virtual changing rooms to try on clothing. Other adaptations that are likely to continue being helpful after the pandemic include touchless checkouts, upgraded HVAC systems, and an enhanced online presence. The pandemic has also helped drive down rents in malls and downtown areas, paving the way for new businesses to open up shop.

Retail closures have been more than twice as likely to occur as new store openings in 2020. However, a variety of retailers – including wholesalers, discount chains, clothing, and beauty supply stores – have benefited from current conditions and are planning to expand.

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