The COVID era holiday shopping will be unlike anything that modern consumers and retailers have ever experienced. U.S. retailers have begun to downplay the importance of Black Friday with deals that begin in October and continue through December. Instead, they are focusing on making 2020 a memorable holiday season.
Retailers are cautiously optimistic about the future of their stores in terms of COVID-19‘s impact. Two thirds of retailers have reported that an employee has tested positive for the virus. This is a sign that many are thinking ahead to what could happen to their stores if the pandemic spreads to other parts of the country. A new survey by UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), Holiday Season Strategy found that four out of five retailers would close down a store during the holidays, should COVID-19 cases rise in their area.
Remember that retailers have spent six months learning how they can navigate the health crisis’s challenges. Although few retailers claim to know the whole code, many are able to give an idea of what could happen over the next six months and have created contingency plans. This includes 59% of retailers who say that their stores have a plan in place to keep their associates employed, even if they need to close.
We know that the holiday hiring and staffing models of last year need to be revised for 2020. Many retailers have created new roles that will help manage store traffic, perform new sanitization tasks, as well as ensure customers comply with social distancing requirements and mask requirements. Nearly half (47%) of all retailers agree that staffing up for curbside assistance is a “top priority” because of the pandemic.
We have seen a significant shift in customer mindsets, adding to the season’s increasing challenges. Customers will shop with a purpose this year and not just for entertainment. Many people won’t be out shopping with friends. They will not be browsing the stores, stopping by to grab lunch or drinks, and they won’t be going there alone. As shoppers stick to their holiday shopping list, impulse purchases will fall.
Are Retail Store Managers the Holiday Hero of 2020?
We often think of the customer experience, employee experience or corporate side of the company. Despite their important role in engaging employees and reducing turnover and reaching revenue goals, store managers are often not top of mind.
We see that retailers are struggling this season due to the lack of support from their managers. They must implement a new set of safety regulations in their stores and all other tasks that come with running a bricks-and-mortar store.
According to the UKG survey, retailers will follow the following protocols and expect store managers enforce them.
- 83% of employees require that they wear masks.
- 82% of customers require masks.
- 80 percent of respondents have increased their cleaning frequency.
- 73 percent enforce social distancing;
- 55% of employees require health screenings.
- 50 percent of the staff are responsible for manually monitoring and limiting the headcount in their stores.
This is all about creating a safe environment for employees to work and customers to shop. The manager is responsible for executing the plan. This year, he or she must be more vigilant. Store revenue could be affected if they are unable to execute and the customer experience is poor. The same goes for employees who feel unsafe at work or feel anxious or stressed. This can lead to stores being less able deliver on customer expectations.
The holiday season is a crucial time for employees, customers and the company’s bottom line. It’s continuous. Coaching, training, and developing managers results in a better employee experience and a better customer experience.
Retailers should embrace the unpredicted this holiday season, and prepare as best they can for the unexpected. It is crucial to prioritize the experience of the store manager.
Guitar Center to File For Bankruptcy Protection
Guitar Center stated last week that it expects to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after having reached a debt-cutting agreement with key lenders and investors. The nation’s largest seller of musical instruments plans to be free from bankruptcy protection by year’s end with almost $800 million less debt. Guitar Center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to allow it to continue its 300 retail locations and receive a break from repaying debts. Guitar Center and its associated brands Music & Arts and Musician’s Friend and Woodwind Brasswind will continue to function normally and meet their financial obligations to suppliers, vendors and employees.
Total Retail’s Take Guitar Center was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, just like most other non-essential retailers. The pandemic caused the company to spiral towards bankruptcy, even though it was already in deep debt. Guitar Center had to close its retail stores temporarily during the pandemic. While online sales soared, they couldn’t make up the revenue lost from the shuttered stores. Guitar Center tried to diversify its business through offering music lessons and instrument repairs, but it was forced into bankruptcy. Guitar Center’s Chapter 11 filing allows it to reduce its debt and continue operating while the management plans a turnaround strategy.
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