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Has the Pandemic Changed the North American Retail Industry for Good?

by Mitchell Chitiz |

Has the Pandemic Changed the North American Retail Industry for Good?

The pandemic has shifted the retail industry, and the changes will continue to affect business for years to come. From lockdowns, in-person shopping restrictions, supply chain challenges, many retailers are in a state of uncertainty and wondering what the retail industry will look like in the coming months. 

Below, we’ll discuss some of the emerging consumer buying trends due to pandemic shifts. We’ll also look at how retailers can prepare for the next phase of retail industry updates and take advantage of this rare opportunity to transform their businesses.

Consumer Trends

It’s no secret that the pandemic has shifted the consumer buying landscape for retailers. With massive bankruptcies and business closures, the move to online shopping has been devastating for businesses not ready for the digital shift. 

Experts say that although the pandemic has altered the landscape, it essentially accelerated 20-year trends of consumer behaviour and demographics that were already emerging. These trends include a shift to online shopping with a growth of digital marketing. 

Digital Shifts

Digital shifts and technology led the way as consumers and retailers grappled with stay-at-home orders and store closures. Stores with little to no investment in online shopping had to create entirely new systems to serve their customers and keep their businesses afloat. 

Rather than see these changes as an obstacle, it can be helpful to think of this as an opportunity to change how retailers do business and better serve their customers. Instead of focusing on getting back to how things were before and how to get customers to behave as they did before the pandemic, this is a chance to create new models that make your retail experience more accessible for everyone and take advantage of these recent digital and technological shifts. 

Online Retail

Online retail saw a massive expansion in early 2020, and this trend is expected to continue. Customers now expect the convenience of online shopping and want more choices, better quality products, and delivered quickly to their homes. These multiple demands can make online sales a challenging market for retailers new to the online game. 

According to a report from Statistics Canada, “Online sales hit a record of almost 4 million in May 2020, which was a 2.3% increase over April and 99.3% increase over February ($2.0 billion). Year over year, e-commerce sales more than doubled—with a 110.8% increase compared with May 2019.”

So what does this mean? Essentially, online shopping is here to stay, and retailers who can take advantage of this shift and set themselves up to respond to customers’ online needs and offer a fantastic in-person shopping experience will be well-positioned to take advantage of this growing market. 

Online shopping also opens up new markets for people with accessibility issues who can’t visit an in-person store, rural customers or those whose schedules don’t allow them to shop in person. Smaller local shops also found success serving local customers who wanted to support them rather than purchase goods on Amazon. Finding sustainable ways of balancing in-person shopping alongside online shopping could be a winning retail combination for the future. 

Digital Marketing

With stay-at-home orders in effect in early 2020, suddenly everyone was at home and online. Online digital marketing became the number one way to reach consumers, and businesses had to adapt fast to this new online world. Now advertising on sites like Google and Facebook along with digital marketing through SEO has become more critical than ever for reaching new customers and creating brand recognition. 

Many smaller retail shops found success with social media and local community posts to let local customers know they were still in business and advertise products for sale online or curbside pickup. This kind of local social marketing engagement connects retailers to their local customers. 

Health and Safety Considerations

Retailers also responded to the need for health and safety protocols and protections for customers and employees. COVID protocols and safety plans for outfitting offices, stores and factories were a focus for many businesses. For retailers, this may mean additional health and safety measures in stores to help reassure nervous shoppers or to help build trust and loyalty as a business. 

Supply Chain Considerations

Supply disruptions during COVID caused many issues for businesses. Post-COVID, retailers may have to rethink their distribution model and have contingency plans for supply chain disruptions or find alternate suppliers who can work without border restrictions. 

As a home décor retailer, it is essential to work with wholesale bedding manufacturers that you trust and have a track record of excellent customer service. With service disruptions and uncertainty around store openings, be sure you are working with a company that can be flexible with inventory and shipping and can supply the highest quality bedding products to stores across North America. 

Sustainability

Customers have also shown us that where and how a product is made is important to them. There is a shift in customer demographics from baby boomers to Gen Z, which tends to be more urban, digitally literate, and globally aware.

How Westex International Are Supporting Retailers 

At Westex, we care about our retail partnerships and their customers. As we move towards a post-pandemic retail industry, we’re here to support retailers in meeting their customers’ expectations.  

Take a look at our authentic Down products and Down recycling process to learn more about our manufacturing process. If you are a retailer interested in learning more about our partnership opportunities, customer service policies, or want to learn more about our product line, get in touch with our team today. 

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