Work-from-Home Trend Not Working for Stores Whose Clientele Is Mainly Office Workers

remote work, work from home, coronavirus, businesses, brick and mortar

Few, if any, remote workers are complaining about the work from home (WFH) uniform of sweatpants, or giving up the commute, but for millions of workers and thousands of businesses that can’t operate remotely — from restaurants to retail stores — remote work isn’t working. 

With many more companies formalizing WFH and hybrid work arrangements in the pandemic’s aftermath, once bustling downtown business districts packed with restaurants, cafés, florist shops, convenience stores and the like see foot traffic down sharply, and perhaps permanently. 

This is predicament can’t be easily remedied using aggregators and doubling up on deliveries. Many businesses exist to cater to office workers, and many of those workers have left. 

CNN recently reported, “According to economists from Goldman Sachs, office attendance in large U.S. cities is only about one-third of pre-pandemic levels. That’s a lot of employees who are still working remotely and not spending cash on items like train tickets or lattes — the kind of economic activity is essential in America’s consumer spending and service-driven economy.” 

The article added that “in New York — one of cities hit hardest at the start of the outbreak — subway ridership is still not even half of what it was pre-pandemic, according to data from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.” 

In a statement, research firm Gartner Inc. said, “By the end of 2021, 51% of all knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely, up from 27% of knowledge workers in 2019,” adding that “remote workers will represent 32% of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021. This is up from 17% of employees in 2019.”  

See also: Mall Sales Are Up, But Shopping Centers Still Have a Traffic Problem 

‘Bring-It-To-Me” Edging Out ‘Go and Get It’ 

Impacts are global in scale but local in nature.  

With Hong Kong still under tight pandemic restrictions, The Boston Globe reported that “prolonged restrictions are hurting Hong Kong’s competitiveness [and many] chambers of commerce in the city have asked repeatedly for the city to reopen to visitors at the earliest opportunity, since the restrictions make it hard for businesses to connect with clients and compete internationally.” 

The story quoted Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, as saying “We’re not seeing any overt effort to provide plans for how Hong Kong is going to get back on track to open its international borders, and this is very difficult for businesses.” 

Changes in consumer shopping behavior to online ordering and home delivery seem increasingly unlikely to abate, compounding foot traffic problems for downtown stores. 

PYMNTS recently reported that “as physical and digital shopping worlds collide, consumers are increasingly making decisions about whether to shop in-store or online — based not on product availability, but rather on what their schedule allows and when they need an item. 

Research conducted by PYMNTS in collaboration with Carat from Fiserv found that 50% of all consumers have increased their “buy now, get later” (BNGL) shopping, “opting to shop online and have their purchases delivered. Clothing and accessories have seen the biggest shift, with 17% of all consumers buying more of their apparel via BNGL than they did last year.” 

Get the study: The Bring-It-To-Me Economy