The retail sector is under great strain due to the coronavirus, but companies need to look for the possibilities and invest in innovation and IT. These were the conclusions from the first webinar of the RetailEXPO 2020, which was due to open today in London, but was moved online.
Mark Price, former MD of Waitrose and Deputy Chairman of John Lewis Partnership, opened the virtual conference about the future of the industry post Covid-19 by explaining what retail will face in the near future.
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It is unlikely to see consumers returning to shops immediately after the lockdown is lifted, Price explained.
According to data from China after the restrictions were lifted volumes returned to only half of what they were before the crisis. The Chinese market expects to recover in Septembre the earliest.
This would mean that the UK government might have to accept that retail will need more extensive support for longer.
Costs going up
Because of the government borrowing Price expects that in the future the industry will see costs rising.
The challenge will come from whether retailers will be able to respond to the surge of the discounters, who have already got large shares of the market.
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Price believes that the way to respond to this is by investing in innovation and IT. The level of the service will become even more important ad customers will look at how different brands bring value. It will be important to also look at how retail can be part of the local community and support it, whilst staying global.