If you’re reading this after June 15, 2020, and the chances are that this is the case, then it’s already happened: all of the U.K.’s shops (well, most of them, anyway) are open again. Yes, shoppers are flooding through the doors and leaving with bags brimful.
Well that’s the theory, but the reality is that there’s a bit of persuasion to be done. Here in Blighty (that’s the U.K. to you), as in much of the rest of Europe, to an extent the legwork as regards reopening has been done. Most shops now have hygiene stations where shopping carts are cleansed and gloves can be donned prior to heading indoors, and once inside, the wearing of facemasks may not be mandatory (yet), but a lot of people are wearing the things and keeping a social distance from each other.
For food shoppers, this has become the norm, and they’ve headed in because they need to: we all have to eat. But what about fashion, beauty and department stores? Do shoppers have to visit? The answer is, of course, they do not and ’twas ever so. The problem is that where discretionary shopping was once something that we all did, there is now a perceived choice between exposing yourself to a greater risk of getting COVID-19 or not.
The fact that providing the right precautions are taken there is little chance of contracting the virus is not the point. Fear is at work and retailers now have to work at getting ’em in, and it will be a matter of reassurance coupled with some nifty visual merchandising.
Oh yes, and there will be lines wherever you go, and we’ll all be waiting in them. Only those retailers that can make the case for heading indoors from the sidewalk will therefore be patronized. Why else would you bother?
The road ahead is uneven and getting the tills to ring out once again will require design and merchandising skills that some thought were perhaps on the way out. Plus ça change plus….
Happy shopping and stay safe.
John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.