A dose of retail reality for Kiwi living in the land of opportunity
Anneka Broad moved to the US nearly a year ago with her family so her husband could continue saving the lives of tiny babies (literally he is a unicorn). It was a hard move as Anneka is incredibly close to her family in NZ and loved her life here but she is a girl of incredible energy, enthusiasm and I can make this happen super-power. She was a member of our RetailX family as a Marketing Specialist before her departure.
We miss her terribly and simply had to ask her what life is like as a shopper living in corona-land and what impact it has had on her. I’d love her to write about life in a Trump pre-election campaign as well, we just have to find the retail-spin for that.
It has now been a year since I moved from New Zealand to the United States – the land of consumerism and over consumption! It is fair to say being a consumer here is vastly different from what I am used to. The accessibility of choices is by far the biggest positive, as well as the lower cost of goods due to the share economies of scale this country has to offer. Then along came Coronavirus……
Call me old school but I like nothing better than venturing out to the shopping mall with friends to try on clothes and enjoy a good coffee. (Actually, that is a rare find in this country too!) That experience has all changed now and if I am honest has taken all the ‘fun’ out of shopping for me. The reality now is long queues outside shops limiting capacity in stores, compulsory mask wearing, and markings on the floor indicating where you can stand so you are physically distanced from other customers. Some stores have also banned the trying on of clothes as this also could be a carrier for the spread of the virus. As a mum the shopping mall experience also offered entertainment for my kids but now play areas are closed, no events are allowed to take place and if they are indoor malls, they are unlikely to be allowed to even open at all.
With the number of restrictions and the need for social distancing this has changed the focus from bricks and mortar shopping to online shopping. Some retailers like Amazon, Costco, Target, and Walmart are thriving in this environment while other retailers such as Macy’s and JC Penny are facing store closures and bankruptcy. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has been mandated by the government which has meant retailers have had to spend a lot of time and money on things such as contactless payment methods, retail glass shields, hand sanitation stations, signage and decals instore demonstrating safe distancing practices. This is just not practical or affordable for some small businesses who are currently struggling to keep staff employed and pay their rent. If you are lucky enough to live in California where I do, and the weather is sunny most days – you do have the option to move your business outside. Hairdressers, gyms, and restaurants here have set up their operations outside in the carpark or offering curb side pickup to continue to offer services to their customers.
One growth sector which is doing well is home improvement or DIY stores. People have been at home for nearly 6 months and are realising this pandemic is not going away soon. So, where they would have previously spent money on holidays, they are choosing to upgrade their properties. If you need to be confined to your house – why not make it as pleasurable as possible! The same could be said for equipment such as home gyms, spin bikes or other entertainment options such as PlayStation.
Finally, the increase in alcohol consumption. And it is not just my household! What I found so ironic in the height of our lockdown where there were restrictions on products such as toilet paper and flour – there was no such restriction on alcohol! And this is a country where you can purchase hard liquor at the supermarket and pharmacy!
One thing I have realised about this pandemic is that it has divided people. There is the camp that are afraid to venture out of their bubble in fear that they will somehow contract this disease and those that understand the risks but are wanting to get back to some sort of normality and get on with life. This has changed people’s views on what they value as important and this will impact on their retail decisions as well as channels. However, I think you will find a lot of people will revert back to old buying habits once there is a perception we are moving towards finding a vaccine and opening up the economy.
PS. Anneka, this is the image we are imagining when we are coming to visit. Can you organise that for us please x