For food and drug retailers, the future will be influenced not only by new economic realities, but also by lessons we learned in real-time during the COVID-19 crisis.
These lessons range from imperatives for preparedness to new ways of interacting with consumers and communities.
I relayed some of these lessons in my recent blog post for Drug Store News. You can read excerpts below, and the full article here:
Extreme Creativity Succeeds
Food and drug retailers have shown how urgency breeds innovation. They quickly launched one-way store aisles, plexiglass sneeze guards, senior shopping hours and other initiatives. It’s not yet clear which, if any, of these will be long-lasting features. What’s more important is keeping the creative spirit alive to address future needs.
Rivals Can Become Partners
The pandemic sparked a phenomenon that couldn’t have been imagined: Rivals became collaborators in real-time. In particular, foodservice production was redirected to retail, and furloughed foodservice employees were hired by retail organizations. This incredible level of cooperation begs the question of how competitors can work together in the future for the good of all.
Systems Need to Be Ready
No one could have expected the stress on retail systems this pandemic has produced, from supply chains to delivery and curbside pickup. However, going forward, there’s an opportunity to pressure test systems to a greater degree, with the benefit of hindsight. This will almost certainly lead to the adoption of enhanced supply chain technologies and increased e-commerce capabilities.
Transparency Gains in Importance
Until recently, transparency tended to focus on product ingredients and origins. In the coronavirus era, it has extended to what’s happening in stores, warehouses, fulfillment centers and other parts of operations. These communications boost trust. While this extreme level of transparency is unlikely to continue after the crisis, there will be opportunities for enhanced communications about safety and related topics.
Let’s not forget perhaps the biggest lesson of all: food and drug retail matters. These retailers have kept America going, and their front-line employees have become heroes. The halo is likely to remain for quite a while.