Since March 2020 when this crisis broke every citizen in every country has been drip fed the message 'stay at home'.

By the end of November 2020 non-essential shops in England will have been closed for 17 weeks of the year. Some say it's a "use it or lose it" situation: shoppers need to support them or next Christmas they won't be there.

It used to be said that 'we (The British) are a nation of shopkeepers' but based on recent times you would be hard pressed to believe this is the case today if you read the article (link below) from the BBC news site. 

During the first half of 2019 circa 3000 stores disappeared from the UK High Street, and with the most critical time of 2020 fast approaching in the run up to the hyper active, highly discounted festive season, unfortunately I suspect this year there will be considerably more to follow.

Assuming England is given the 'green light' to emerge out of the latest 'lockdown' in early December we all know the biggest challenge is how to help to reassure consumers to get back out and shop with you - in my opinion this creates a huge opportunity for all retailers today.

We know that prior to this crisis e-commerce led to fewer people coming to our physical stores. All the evidence is there to support the reality that Covid has tipped those already weak retailers into the retail archives.

So, what can retail do to turn this trend around and increase footfall traffic?

A third of us plan to spend more at independent stores this year than we did in 2019, according to a poll commissioned by Enterprise Nation, an organisation which supports start-ups. It found younger shoppers are even more determined, with half of under-35s planning to shop more at independents.

The debate about 'essential retail' wages on with many small businesses completely frustrated at a definition that sees some bigger 'essential' chains being able to sell products deemed to be 'non-essential' - talk about confusing!

I've seen some great small towns reinvent themselves. The really good ones that came through were long ago abandoned by the retail multiples that created homogenized US style versions of a shopping mall. These created an experience that wherever you went, looked and felt no different than any other town or city.

So, along with the 'multiple retail model' we got the 'multiple retail experience' with shitty non personal service, which in my opinion misses a few huge things that makes, well, retail, retail.....

There are some great benchmark towns around the UK doing some awesome stuff and creating immersive experiences which encourages genuine dwell time and social advocacy. 

They do this through collaboratively working with local people and businesses to deliver something the community feels happy to support. This ranges from food festivals, to artisan markets covering all kinds of goods and creativity that support local entrepreneurs who in turn support the local economy - which after all is how all towns and cities grew over the centuries.

What do the retail multiples do - they buy other failed multiples and add them to the offer - something they should have been doing several years prior to this crisis!

To ensure customers visit retail establishments in the future–and that’s measured in days/weeks for some, months not years for others – the retail experience must be structured around the human component. 

Critical to this is authentic communication.

The first step is to get back to the basics of delivering on the customer’s wants and needs, building trust, and demonstrating that our appreciation of the individual shopper goes beyond the sum and substance of her transactions. 

Retail has always had to work hard at getting people through the doors, this is equally true for all online retailers. 

In particular with the rise of 'social commerce' which is diverting traffic that would at one time have gone to your website, or that 'marketplace' you chose to sell your good through.

Many people on social media are also employed in the retail industry, I have no doubt that the employees of these companies have a bigger social media footprint than the leadership teams of these struggling businesses, and they all have their own area of expertise and stories to tell.

These people without knowing it are 'micro-influencers' in their own right, and with the right training and support are becoming a huge stealthy Superpower for innovative local high st retailers of all kinds.

Social Media is no longer an extension of your customer service department. How about taking a leaf out of the small retailers and using that training to activate at least 10% of the aggregated workforce to give a non brand police view of the really good reasons to work and shop at each of these companies?

Companies whose revenues have been decimated by lack of income have no option but to become fiscally tighter. Consumers are doing something similar in fear of losing jobs, homes, and livelihoods so they're postponing discretionary spend of any kind - it's all filtering through to the worldwide economic infrastructure we once thought was impenetrable.

These local shops are already leveraging free to access, free to use social media platforms. They use this medium to engage with, and encourage customers to post about their visit to that local food hall, food festival and artisan market.

Content discovery via Social media is one of the ways you can open up new conversations, find groups of 'real' people who are genuinely interested in you, your brand, your employees, and your company and engage with them.

So, what's your strategy to better engage with the consumer via their platform of choice which is social media?