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Retailers Settle In To Wave Two – “Almost” Normal But At Home

This week about 90% of U.S. consumers are under a “Stay at Home” order.  Most of these customers have moved beyond the hoarding period to the next wave of shopping behavior focused on limited trips to stores with increased purchasing on-line with home delivery.  In week three of our list of retailer actions we are seeing an enhanced set of tactics focused on controlling shopper flow in-store during those limited shopping trips as well as innovative ways to keep business going and product flowing:

Protecting shoppers and store associates in store

  1. One-way aisles – to enforce social distancing, in addition to setting limits on the number of shoppers in store, retailers are guiding shoppers through the store with one-way aisles and other techniques. ShopRite taped out large arrows to help shoppers understand the new shopping pattern, reducing in-aisle congestion.
  2. Plexiglass shields – many grocery retailers and clubs have placed clear plexiglass between the cashier and the customer as a layer of protection for both.

Creative offerings to serve the customer at home

  1. Activities for kids – our favorite is the DIY doughnuts offered by a New Jersey Dunkin’ Doughnuts franchisee.  These kits include plain doughnuts with several frosting and topping options and instructions.
  2. Helping teachers look great for their on-line sessions – Draper James is giving away dresses to teachers across the country with their new “Draper James Teachers” initiative.
  3. Partnerships to reach the “sheltered at home” consumer – this week Walgreens announced a partnership with Postmates to offer expanded on-demand delivery to service customers nationwide. Postmates will deliver health and wellness and convenience items as well as a limited number of OTC medications.
  4. Virtual stylists – Evereve has come up with another great program: offering virtual 30 minute styling appointments that are conducted via FaceTime or phone with free shipping on all items selected during the session.

Repurposing space

  1. Malls transition to health care centers – now closed for regular business, many malls are becoming centers for community support to help battle the virus. Mall of America is hosting a series of blood drives for the American Red Cross on April 7, 8, 17 and 18.  Others are becoming Covid test centers like the Provo Towne Center Mall where the large parking lots provide plenty of space for drive through testing.  In some cases, vacant mall spaces are being repurposed into temporary hospitals.  The state of Tennessee announced that to add hospital capacity, The Gateway Shopping Center in Memphis will become a 170 bed hospital.
  2. Seasonal retailers opening up D.C. space to support food distribution – this week, the on-line retailer Balsam Hill announced they were repurposing some of their warehouses to ship overstock bulk nonperishable food from restaurant partners to serve those in need. Launched as “Balsam Provisions”, the company will be donating all profits to charity.

Preserving loyalty

  1. CEO updates – retail and brand leaders are wisely continuing to correspond via email, apps and social media with customers to provide updates on their company’s response during these difficult times.
  2. Extending status! – ok, we had to sneak this in here although it isn’t exactly retail – good news for all frequent flyers on Delta and United – both airlines are extending elite status for an additional year.  We expect other similarly impacted airlines, hotels and membership programs to follow suit soon.

The agility and creativity of our industry should be a source of pride for us all.  Stay healthy!  Please send any tactics that should have a spot on our list to


Mara Devitt

Mara Devitt guides retailers, brands and solution providers to identify and execute opportunities to innovate and grow. She has spent over 30 years focused on the direct to consumer segment with extensive experience with complex global clients as well as start-ups.

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