Are Gap's Face Masks The Start Of Retail Reinvention?


Retail must, and will, change following the coronavirus, with consumer behavior shifting from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce and merchants making adjustments to their inventory selections and safety measures. Gap Inc., in one case, intends to have fabric face masks on offer, such as a pack of two that was available on its website for $10, when it reopens its stores. The retailer intends to open its approximately 800 North American retail locations again in May.

Its locations will have shields at checkout as well as signs reminding shoppers to adhere to social distancing rules along with regular store cleanings. Also, every store will have a table at the front with hand sanitizer. Gap’s planned reopening comes as other retailers, such as Macy’s Inc., started bringing their brick-and-mortar locations back online last week. The Wall Street Journal notes that the process is complex, as every geography has its own rules and it’s not known how enthusiastic shoppers will be to go back to stores, among other venues.

PYMNTS’ national survey of consumers, which encompasses over 10,000 people now, has continuously found that the availability of a vaccine that will alleviate their fear of dying is the only thing that will provide real confidence to consumers when it comes to returning to their daily routines.

Over the last seven weeks, we found that consumers are changing their behaviors as #stayathome has become an everyday reality. Three times the number of consumers now buy through the web for merchandise other than groceries, while their spending across the board has dropped.

Reinventing retail in the wake of the coronavirus may mean rethinking retail formats. And non-essential locations, with the inclusion of malls, will have to take into account old issues such as overall footprint and new ones such as social distancing.

First Insight CEO Greg Petro said in a past report, “As retail visits expand past essential retail like grocery and drug stores, other retailers, and malls in particular, need to be thinking of ways to inspire a sense of safety for consumers, and it will need to go beyond offering gloves and masks at the door.” Petro continued, “It’s also likely that retailers will see more men in-store than women, and they should consider adjusting inventory to target these shoppers.”

And, while selection, price, and location once defined retail success, the factors that will drive the digital shift and possibly have shoppers return to brick-and-mortar retail today look more like shopper safety and empathetic marketing.

Whether through empathetic messaging, rethought formats, inventory selections or safety measures, retail will, and must, change after COVID-19 to adapt to consumer behavior.



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