Businesses are collapsing at an alarming rate, unemployment is rocketing around the world yet pent up creativity, innovation, and business creation is happening at a rate greater than at any time in history.
Fast-growing online fashion brands Boohoo and ASOS have snapped up several physical retail brands following their recent collapse - old news now of course.
But Boohoo and ASOS are not interested in owning and running physical stores (yet), so the number of closures could creep up.
The whole industry is in a state of flux, it's really struggling to find out how to compete in this agile multi-channel, digitally savvy consumer led world.
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.
The worrying bit is that all that expertise was contained by the brand police instead of being unleashed for the benefit of both parties.
Traditional retailers that failed to recognise the potential impact of eCommerce and the rise of social commerce have been seeing casualties for well over a decade.
This isn't something new, it isn't a fad, it isn't about cannibalization as some of them told me many years ago, it's about having the 3 wise monkey syndrome in the boardroom, not listening to the consumer, and frontline employees, and not reacting quickly enough to what they can evidence.
If you're the biggest and best in your sector today you won't be for long, just ask Arcadia, Debenhams, and many, many others.
Now I'm not saying you can plan for every eventuality but when all the markers, research, and sector intelligence is staring directly at your sector then surely it isn't good stewardship to simply ignore them, or incrementally change as many traditional retailers seem to have done to theirs, and their employees peril.
The internet has allowed millions of people around the world to take what today might be a small bite out of your very large cake, and if enough of them do this consistently and better than you then it's inevitable they will quickly dilute what you think is a dominant position.
The reality is the digital Pandora box is open, and it isn't closing anytime soon.
The 2008 recession created a ‘lost generation’ of disenfranchised young people, mistrusting of brands and institutions. Today, advances in data and technology have fuelled a culture of creative entrepreneurialism that offers a palpable threat to legacy brands. It’s now easier than ever to create a global brand from your bedroom. And so, if the COVID recession results in another ‘lost generation’, they won’t be just be cynical of institutions and brands, they will compete against them. In time, they could replace them.
At no time in history has it been easier and cheaper to set up a business.
If I understand the digital medium better than you I already know I don't need a database, I don't need to spend huge amounts of my budget and resource on advertising, and I can gain access to your incumbent and future customers.
I can create conversations that will make them think differently about why they should do business with me over you, and I will 'listen' to them because you never did.
I'm not naive, I've been around the retail sector for many years, I've operated across all areas of retail in a number of different countries, and I understand that they all carry a huge fixed and legacy systems cost base. For many the biggest of those cost are indeed the physical retail store network, so I get that you can't simply cull stores overnight - but to build the future you have to leverage the past, or as someone once quoted me
"It's easier to give birth than it is to raise the dead".
The entire buying process has changed FOREVER, this is already impacting both the B2B and B2C sectors.
Today, the winners will be those that have invested in the time to truly understand the potential for the social medium, and look to up-skill not only the workforce, but also the boardroom with a understanding around what an enterprise wide 'social strategy' in today's socially savvy, digitally connected world we live in really can do to transform your future.
Now is the time to adopt a 'leverage and build' strategy, not when you're failing and playing catch up.........
Brands need to make co-creation an integral part of both product and brand development. Partner with accelerators, younger, marginalised or minority audiences, niche brands and entrepreneurs who may not be known to the mainstream but have the power to shape the mainstream. Empower them to empower you by providing them with training, funding and exposure, or risk them leaving your brand for dust.