Will Retail Survive the New Normal?

A week into the opening of non-essential retail in the UK I went in to check it out. I don’t know about you, but it is all still a bit surreal for me.

Standing in a queue for 30 minutes spaced out neatly with the help of stickers and arrows on the floor. Then when we are finally allowed in, a quick handwash of gel and off we go. Catching a glance of the staff policing social distancing when I find myself a bit too close to other customers on the escalator.

I am not criticising these initiatives, but I do wonder at what price these shops are opening. They are operating with more staff, lower store capacity and lower footfall. Sales in year to May is down by 50% and not expected to improve anytime soon[1].

The 3-month break from rent that Boots, Primark and many stores large and small had demanded is coming to an end, but how many will be ready to restart paying their rent. Not many … a different model will be needed to redefine the relationship between the owners and the retailer.

To survive property owners and retailers are driven to work more closely together[2]. More data and better analytics are required to not just monitor footfall, but also to track conversion rates. The objective is to come to a more comprehensive cost model. That is the only way the High Street will survive.

Whilst many stores still don’t track footfall, the technology has become better and cheaper. For a few pounds a month you gather real time footfall and capacity tracking/auditing. Whilst this data provides insight on its own, it becomes even more powerful when combined with workforce management.

Michiel Lely

Director, Professional Services

[1] “Retailers still pessimistic despite lockdown exit – CBI” by Elias Jahshan, June 25, 2020

[2] “79% UK retail landlords say Covid-19 permanently changes leasing terms” by Sahar Nazir, May 12, 2020