This year Christmas and 2021 will be remembered by many for all the wrong reasons for sure.

And for many, unfortunately and tragically this will become a defining year on a personal and family basis - it will most definitely live on in historical records as the first pandemic of our digital age. 

So, from what has been a world changing tumultuous historical defining time for all of us this will be my last formal blog of 2021. So, here's my view on the current situation for retail along with what might hopefully provide a 'north star' for some.

Just as retailers and hospitality were beginning to believe that this year's festive season could pull many back from the brink we now have Xmas groundhog day!

We now know that the anticipated retail boom over the festive period has been curtailed by yet another mutation (no not Boris) that has superimposed restrictive freedom logistics for all.

Whilst consumers finally started to look away from just an online experience to the High St due to uncertainty around supply and 'on time' delivery from eCommerce players we also know that retailers from every sector (and channel) have been wrestling with the ongoing supply chain issues created as commerce awoke from lockdowns around the world and every leader in governments hailed the 'vaccine' as our way to freedoms and 'normality' - but apart from asking 'when will this nightmare be over' one of the questions everyone in retail is iteratively asking 'what is the new normal'?

"Sadly, the issues in the supply chain have not yet subsided – one day it's fabric prices, then it's freight prices, then it's freight delays," one clothing supplier tells Drapers. "It really seems quite doomed right now. I understand from my retail customers that they are having huge issues globally, not just in the Far East. I wish I could say that things will return to normal in a year or something, but the longer this goes on, the more I think this may just be the new normal."

In summary consumer behaviour is driven by headlines telling them to choose between food or presents this festive season, so how does retail overcome this inertia?

For the most part, e-commerce hasn’t changed in the past decade or so. 

It’s an efficient way to buy something you know you want, what the industry calls mission shopping but it’s hampered by the challenges of promoting product discovery and impulse purchases. 

Winning over Gen-Z will be crucial to many brands’ and retailers’ post-pandemic plans: the consumer group currently accounts for 40 percent of global consumers and $150 billion in spending power in the United States alone, according to McKinsey & Company

What’s more, Bain & Company estimates that Gen-Z spending could make up 40 percent of the global market for personal luxury goods by 2035. 

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

As the perception around product availability or lack of it increases and footfall decreases due to revised Covid restrictions 'on time' communications (not adverts or a Tsunami of intrusive emails) will create the difference between you or your competitor winning that sale.

Leaving it to 'The Grinch' isn't going to work no matter how much you cross your fingers and believe in the spirit of Christmas.

On Thursday 22nd October 2020 I put a flag up on LinkedIn to alert retail CEOs that I had a few ideas that could help them drive revenues, get them closer to the customer, and become more relatable, and if done right possibly save jobs, Christmas, and the inevitable severe January markdowns - It’s from my proven ‘leverage & build’ strategy process.

I thought it worth sharing once again.

Is it unique - probably not, but what really is?

Are others doing it - not enough in the UK.

Can any retailer do it - definitely.

It doesn’t require more investment in people, product, or tech.

Today I'm happy to share with you what that idea is - its called 'entertaining those stuck at home'

Note: an eCommerce site will be needed.

For every physical store there are related employees, many of whom will be socially and digitally savvy individuals in their own right, all with their own online community of friends and family. 

Each store will be located in several locations but also close enough to each community.

By taking a leaf out of the chinese digital playbook retailers today should think about using local 'live streaming' events. These 'planned' events could/should include local singers, songwriters, bands and groups all performing from the store. They can also feature local street food producers, along with other local community involvement.

Think magazine, entertainment, audience involvement -  not transaction!

By leveraging the expertise of the retail employees products can be demonstrated, showcased, and if they (employees) wanted to take it even further provide an online fashion/product show.

Those benefits are the point of a traditional store, which, despite its troubles and costs, is still very good at using employees, merchandising, and ambience to persuade people to buy more stuff.

Turning hundreds of employees into virtual sales consultants can require a hefty investment, but the retail landscape of tomorrow will require all this and more if it is to not only compete with eCommerce, but also be better equipped to understand the significant rise in 'social commerce'

This is 21st Century retail - its available without huge investment in legacy systems and is extremely agile whilst leveraging what you already have.

Is this something you have already tested, what did you learn that might benefit others, or is this an initiative that's becoming part of today's retail playbook?

I do hope you have a happy, safe, and sane Festive Season - so, from me and mine to your and yours 'Merry Christmas' and a Hopeful 2022.