Out With The Old, In With The New: Is Retail Really Dead?

As Richard Branson says, “Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming”. The COVID-19 Pandemic really changed the course of business activity at a global scale for retailers like us. Continue to read our insight…

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Beam of light in bleak times

The world saw unprecedented times with the Covid-19 Pandemic, slowing global business activity if not completely halting it. Talking about retail specifically, the overall impact has been huge. An online survey conducted by SMEDA (April 2020) “Impact of Covid-19 on SMEs”, the result highlights, 95% of enterprises have experienced a reduction in operations, 92% reports disruption in supply chain, 23% reports to 100% loss in export orders, 48% enterprise have laid off employees, while 26% plan to rehire laid-off employees in a month, and 89% enterprises facing financial issues.

The COVID-19 effect did not stop at the ‘business side of things’, but also changed consumer behavior. People mostly shopped online, even to buy essential products. Delivery services, multi-seller e-comm portals like Daraz.pk, and the e-comm sphere had to quickly evolve to catch up with the needs of the consumers. Financial services (bank transfers, credit/debit cards transactions, online banking etc) along with groceries, pharmaceuticals, food deliveries saw the largest increases in the Covid-19 crisis through both third-party online marketplace and e-commerce.

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Rising to the challenge

Seeing this as a challenge, retailers quickly upped their game thanks to social media and business intelligence software. Those who did not get on the online/e-comm bandwagon, either went out of business or suffered heavy losses. Having been in the fashion retail business since 1983, we heavily relied on feedback from our customers and combined it with our product knowledge, so we can grow over the years. So, for fashion retailers like us, we did not want to let go of that insight from our loyal customers, but we had to change with evolving times and preferences.

So, the real question comes, who is the clear winner here?

While e-commerce is definitely the present and the future, retail is still very important. Indeed, the costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar store is far higher than running a digital store, along with the necessary staffing and logistics involved. However, the access to real time data and insight is phenomenal.

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Sure, with safer payment gateways, availability of tracking your order, easy return and exchange policies, online shopping is on the rise but when it comes to fashion, there is still a majority of buyers that prefer physically viewing the items when making a purchase decision. They also prefer buying an outfit in the present and not wait for days to procure it. They enjoy the human-to-human interaction when they are helped by a sales staff member in making better purchase decisions.

Consequently, looking at all these multi-facets, the answer is clear.

The ‘Consumer’ is the real winner here. The option to stay in retail, venture into retail, go into e-commerce all depends on your consumer. During 2020 and 2021, ALL businesses that thrived and/or survived were because of how correctly and closely their finger was on their customer’s pulse. If businesses want to stay in operation, grow, and profit, they need to closely listen to their consumers. The savviness of social media makes it very easy to do so, especially if you figure out the ‘where’.

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