Long before Covid-19 hit, the industry had been grappling with the so-called retail apocalypse. Now that the pandemic has exposed many of the supply chain’s weak points, brands are rushing to pivot their strategy to survive.
While some retailers are facing headwinds as a result of the coronavirus, dollar stores are thriving. Much of that is thanks to the communities dollar stores target -- namely, poorer regions with less access to fresh food. Dollar stores' continued success is having an impact on these areas too, by potentially driving out other local retailers.
Retail workers, especially in grocery and delivery, were lauded for being on the frontlines when the coronavirus outbreak first began. But the treatment of these often-exploited employees hasn’t always matched brands’ sentimental commercials, says one worker.
Even as retailers are given the go-ahead to reopen, concerns over inconsistent foot traffic is yet another factor in deciding to do so. As regions experience a second wave, a return to normal activity levels is becoming further out of reach. For brands faced with the decision of when to reopen stores, this means taking into account the pros and cons of getting immediate business through the door now when it may be more prudent to wait.
People are stuck at home, making it harder for them to try on clothes. Some services work with retailers to let customers try to visualize what the products would look like on them. But they're imperfect, at best. All the same, smaller companies already on the market are seeing jumps in merchant interest, while bigger players such as Adobe have begun investing resources into developing their own high-tech solutions.
QR codes have found little success since coming on the scene decades ago. With the onset of the pandemic, the encrypted prints appear to be coming back in fashion as retailers grapple with contactless marketing and payment solutions. Is this the time QR codes finally enter the mainstream?
Digital consumer startups that happened to benefit during the pandemic are seeing renewed interest from investors. However, despite a return in fundraising activity, prospects of early stage venture backing remain stagnant. Later-stage consumer startups in hyper-growth mode have able to seek out fresh funding for extending momentum. That hasn't been the case, however, for early stage companies.
Uber is considering acquiring Postmates, according to news reports. This is likely a move by Uber to get more marketshare. But Postmates presents some interesting possibilities. For one, the courier app has partnered with non-food companies, like Old Navy. Which is to say that Postmates presents an opportunity to grow Uber's delivery presence in directions beyond just food.
To help restaurants get back on their feet, a host of US states have permitted restricted reopening, making use of outdoor space. While it may be easy for some, it's impossible for others. And while such limited reopenings are a good start, they won’t suffice to keep many eateries afloat. The big problem boils down to the economics; if restaurants can only serve a small percentage of their customers, they quite simply won't be able to make ends meet.
While big players like Grubhub and Doordash try to get every restaurant in the United States on their platform, smaller companies like Chowbus are doing things a little differently. Instead, they go narrow and deep; Chowbus only features Chinese restaurants, building a more loyal user base. It may present a new blueprint for food delivery apps.
A number of grocery and food-related companies are trying to raise money while the results are in their favor. Instacart, for example, raised $225 million and Albertsons is preparing for an IPO. It makes sense that these companies are looking for this cash now -- they've shown impressive growth in an otherwise uncertain economy.
As Gap takes another legal hit from landlords, the physical retail world and commercial real estate worlds may continue to face mounting tension before new terms are set. While some retailers face lawsuits, others are trying to ink agreements to temporarily pause rent, with the understanding things will pick back up in the future. Some players are also renegotiating leases to encompass future unprecedented crises. Put together, it points to future commercial real estate contracts having a new look.
As the apparel industry struggles to return to its pre-covid level of sales some secondhand clothing startups have been thriving as shoppers become more price conscious. ThredUp released its annual report on the state of secondhand clothing, and said that from mid-March to the end of May, its weekly gross transaction volume has grown 20% compared to the same time period last year. And it's not the only secondhand clothing startup seeing growth.
Restaurants may be slowly reopening, but vending machines are in the midst of a renaissance. Before, automat-style choices were futuristic oddities. Now, a number of companies are pitting their growth on building machines that can serve food. Social distancing is still in full effect, so perhaps these machines will be the future of food service.
Before the pandemic, the used car sales app Carvana targeted a generation of socially awkward app-users, many of whom were finally aging into buying their first car. Enter coronavirus, and a social distancing-ready purchasing system suddenly made sense for every generation of Americans -- including those well acquainted with the patter of a used car salesman. The question remains whether or not this car buying model will last.
One thing is true for nearly all conversions on Amazon: They’re captured by products on page one of the search results. And a significant share of purchases go to just the top few results.
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