Q: I’m feeling a little overwhelmed planning for the future. I know no one knows for sure what retail will look like when business recovers, but I was wondering if you have any guidance on what merchants should be focusing on today.
Steve Pruitt: You’re right, we don’t have a crystal ball, but we know two things so far from working with our retailers. The first is that merchants who are really hustling are managing to make their numbers. What does it mean to hustle? It means calling your clients in person instead of sending an email, retrofitting a sprinter van into a mini showroom/dressing room and coming to customers’ homes to sell, and basically pulling out all the stops to reduce the friction between what customers want and their own comfort.
The other thing we know is that virtual selling and buying are here to stay, and I’m talking about beyond e-commerce. Shopping your vendors through online trade shows, pre-appointments with customers via Zoom so they can walk straight into a curated dressing room, and virtual try-ons using augmented reality are our future. For retailers who are not comfortable with technology, this can be a real obstacle.
If you fall into this category, talk to the younger and more tech-savvy members of your team, or even family members, and gather information on which shopping methods add the most value and convenience. I’m not saying we will never sell like we used to, but it’s likely to be a hybrid of in-person, touch-and-feel product selling, and virtual. You might as well prepare now.
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