As we look to enter what is normally the most critical sales quarter in the retail sector it certainly looks like this year will be one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Over this past year I've tried to find green shoots of optimism for multi-channel retailers around the world in the form of taking a 'problem - solution' approach to writing these blogs.

As the pandemic gathered pace we were reminded on a daily basis of the ripple effect across many sectors in relation to not only business closures but also the human element.

Some 15 years ago I was lucky enough to obtain a global patent for something we called 'Interactive Store Window' (image below) that was designed to;

  • Catch passers by to physically 'interact' with the store window
  • Provide an element of 'retail theatre' and entertain.
  • Capture permission based data to 'keep in touch' long after they have gone.

All very exciting, and yes we made a few headlines, the patent was awarded for the data collection element - and we never made a penny from it because we were slightly ahead of our time and the country was still on dial up - even at the store in the picture.

As a die hard retailer I innately believe it is our job to innovate ways to engage the consumer and draw them to us over our nearest competitor.  

Call me old fashioned but the growth in the US driven initiative for 'Black Friday' followed by 'Cyber Monday' was always somewhat of an irritation to me. 

It smacked of the same issues that started the demise of department store group 'Debenhams' with their 'Blue Cross' events. 

These promotional campaigns designed to drive consumers to them over the competition eventually encouraged the consumer to hold fire on any purchases until the 'Blue Cross' event was announced and along with it all those discounts.

As footfall continues to be a challenge for physical retail we have been seeing staggeringly little innovation other than more discounting from brands desperate to offload stockpiles in stores, warehouses, and supply chain commitments .

There is just over a month to go until Black Friday on 27 November, but some fashion and lifestyle brands are gearing up to launch discounts as soon as October ends.

The retail apocalypse continues  - or does it?

If you're a retailer who invested in your online channel pre-pandemic there seems to be a glimmer of hope as ideation around consumer experience is at last starting to get retailers to recognise that if the customer can't come to them, they must go to where the consumer is, for now!

Every - single - one - of - your customers - are - on - SOCIAL MEDIA!

Retailers had been toying with features such as video chats and livestreaming to make e-commerce more pleasant and personable even before the coronavirus forced store closures.

But months into a pandemic that still has people wary of going to the high st or mall, the online shopping experiment is pivoting from hype to a longer-term strategy. 

Covid‑19 has supercharged the threat e-commerce poses to brick-and-mortar chains by accelerating its adoption—U.S. online sales in the second quarter rose 45% from a year earlier, clocking three times recent growth rates.

As this pandemic subsides, and subside it will, my guess is those that understood how best to 'leverage' social media, along with other consumer engagement techniques such as 'live streaming' and as featured in the article in the link below your own personal online 'sales associate' will be the brands of the future.

That is unless you have bought into the hype that retail is dying and not re-inventing itself.