This Report covers the impact of COVID-19 on the retail industry, inclusive of ecommerce. Consumer attitudes toward shopping, shopping behaviors and opportunities in the medium and longer term are discussed.

What you need to know

The retail landscape is going through a monumental metamorphosis as a result of COVID-19, and while not all retailers will emerge on the other side, many have and will continue to discover new ways to serve customers. Positive indications are already becoming evident, based on some of the ways retailers have already adapted and consumers have responded. Closed stores left retailers communicating through social media and revamping online offerings, interacting with existing customers in new formats and meeting new customers along the way. Others piloted new services or features, such as virtual consultations or appointment-based shopping. This type of savviness and experimentation will be crucial for navigating the retail landscape in the longer term. Retailers shouldn’t press pause on new services or features that were piloted during the lockdown, just because stores are reopening. Instead, they should approach reopening with a fresh perspective, taking into consideration the new factors that will drive and be of importance to consumers, such as wellbeing, surroundings and value.

Additionally, while omnichannel retailing was already quickly becoming the industry norm, COVID-19 will catapult this to new levels. Retailers that can withstand the pandemic will make the necessary investments in the tools and technologies needed for omnichannel retailing. Looking ahead, an omnichannel approach will be paramount. Meeting consumers where they are and where they want to be (or not be, in the case of pandemic behavior) will safeguard businesses in the longer term.

COVID-19: US context

This Report was written in June 2020.

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US. 

 Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, and non-essential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations. At the time of writing, all 50 states have relaxed restrictions, allowing businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. However, a resurgence of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans.

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