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Coronavirus: Are you ready for a second wave?

Leicester has been placed on a local lockdown following a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. As a result, it’s forced people to consider the possibility of other local – or national – lockdowns, should there be a second wave of the virus. Here, Bira’s CEO Andrew Goodacre asks ‘are you ready for a second wave?’.

You may be wondering why I have asked this question. All non-essential shops in the UK are now open – apart from Leicester which has now been placed back into the first phase of lockdown measures.

The experts have been warning us about a second wave in the UK. We also know the same has happened in parts of Europe where they are a few weeks ahead of us in dealing with the pandemic. We might have been expecting this in winter, but it is reality

I feel genuinely sorry for all those independent retailers and their employees who have now been forced to close again. I share the frustration of those independent businesses in the hospitality and service retail sectors who were looking forward to opening on Saturday, July 4. It has never been more difficult for the high street and recent events in Leicester really show how fragile any recovery is going to be.

We already knew it was going to be challenging. There has been lots of research during lockdown and here are some important facts:

  • 70% of consumer felt nervous about visiting shops when they re-opened
  • 50% of consumers are nervous about visiting a pub or restaurant
  • 80% of consumers want to carry on shopping locally
  • 43% of all non-food retail sales in May were ONLINE. (this is more than double the pre COVID-19 levels).

There are other statistics I could quote. If you did not already know, you have to accept that shopping has changed. Good news is that people want to buy locally. More negative is that online shopping has increased significantly; 15 years of growth achieved in three months! We have always known that online shopping was seen as cheaper and more convenient. Now it has another perceived strength – safety. With so many customers fearful of the traditional shopping experience, the internet presents itself as a safe, flexible alternative.

BUT this is also the opportunity for the independent retailer. Now more than ever a retailer has to realign the business model to meet the needs of customers – safety, shopping, locally and use of technology. We saw many businesses do exactly this during lockdown – change they way they worked, the way they communicated and the way they engaged their customers. They took a risk and used technology for the first time. Others built on foundations they already had in place. Either way, these retail businesses have benefitted and now have a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop complimented by an improved digital proposal.

Because we listened to members, we have started to introduce new partners to our business to help all members enter the digital world. That is why we partnered with ecommerce specialist EKM who will help members build an online shop.

We have also introduced Maybe* which can help make the most of social media. There will be others as we look to find suitable partners to support our members. Yes, it requires investment and even a leap of faith for some, and that is why there are special offers available from these suppliers.

So, my question is – are you ready for a second wave? Now is the time to start thinking about the answer by looking at your way of working and your business model. As consumers change habits, so retailers need to change.

Read more from Andrew Goodacre, here

Find out how selling online can boost your trade by 100% here

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