Challenges and Opportunity Continue in Retail

This article first appeared in D Magazine.

Now almost eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty, challenge, and opportunity remain.

We certainly know more than we did in February/March, but many questions remain unanswered about this virus. And without a doubt, COVID-19 has been the great accelerator for many consumer space trends, which existed pre-pandemic, have been accelerated by years, and will continue indefinitely.

The challenges in retail are both short and long term.

Short term, retailers and restauranteurs have to continue to figure out how to survive through this very challenging period. Sadly, many concepts have closed for good, and many others will not make it through the pandemic. Further, the consumer has changed the way he/she shops and dine, and retail/restaurant businesses will have to change. These long-term pivots include the superb execution of omnichannel retailing, efficient curbside pickup, and excellent customer experience/service, all requirements of a successful consumer-based business.

Each of these challenges will be met with an opportunity.

Retailers and restaurant operators have adapted and transformed for many decades and through many cycles, and this evolution will be no different.

Retailers are seeing consumer shopping at home as an opportunity to improve their e-commerce operations and offset lower in-store sales greatly. Certain retail categories have thrived through this pandemic, like outdoor sports and recreation, home and patio furnishings, arts and crafts, athletic and casual attire. The common thread—staying close to home, being with family, and socializing outdoors.

Some of the biggest opportunities will be in the restaurant space.

Restaurants have been both creative and entrepreneurial in providing great curbside pickup and customer delivery. While many restaurants have closed, the next wave of talented sous chefs will emerge with new concepts. With the large inventory of closed restaurant spaces, capital costs to open will be considerably lower, thus sparking new restaurant growth.

So the challenges and opportunities continue, and we will be attentive, creative, and diligent in responding to each.

Our retail, restaurant, and real estate industries’ resiliency will not only survive but thrive at the end of this very challenging and unprecedented period.

About the Authors

Alan Shor
Alan Shor

Alan P. Shor, a co-founder of The Retail Connection, serves as its President and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors.