Signs of optimism for retail reopening

Published on: 12th June 2020

Early indications that US retail is off to a positive start as UK shops ready for Monday’s reopening.        

As the US emerges from lockdown, data shows that US consumer spending began to rise in May, with many retailers reporting that sales improved more than expected. The encouraging data from a survey by Mastercard revealed that total US retail sales, excluding the automobile sector, dropped 5.6% in May from a year ago, an improvement on April when the figures showed a 14.1% decline.

Executives at department store chains Macy’s, Kohl’s and Nordstrom have reported that sales at reopened stores were gradually improving, even if they remained much lower than usual. Jeffrey Gennette, chief executive of Macy’s, said of the company’s stores: “each week that they’re open, they’re getting a little bit better”.

Steve Sadove, a former chief executive of Saks who is now senior adviser at Mastercard, said: “In my career I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, ‘Gee, I feel really good that my sales are only down 30%’, but expectations were that nobody would come out at all.” There was “clearly a stabilisation in the retail environment”, he added, following stimulus funds from the US government and discounts at some retailers encouraging customers to spend.

As ‘non-essential’ retailers in the UK prepare to re-open next week, Selfridges has outlined a mix of virtual experiences and live entertainment designed to create a ‘joyful experience’ for shoppers once stores reopen fully. Although the retailer has been trading online, stores director Maeve Wall has admitted that staff miss serving customers in person. “I can’t wait to put on my heels and get back out there,” she commented. “We will be bringing a little bit more life and a joyful experience for customers who come to our stores.”

The full reopening of Selfridges stores from Monday will be celebrated with special window displays. Staff have contributed to giant thank-you cards that will express gratitude to family members, key workers or others who have supported them. To help guarantee a pleasant shopper experience, head count technology will ensure that stores don’t get too crowded, with greeters on the door telling shoppers if they can enter or must wait. Those that have to queue will be entertained as they wait by DJs, live entertainers and product demonstrations.

Fenwick is also ready to reopen stores and new ways of shopping have been introduced with safety in mind. CEO John Edgar explained: “We have been working diligently in order to make our stores compliant with the guidelines, yet still give our customers a truly Fenwick experience.” Although toy departments will not have toys out on display to try or play with, staff will be on hand to demonstrate products and offer advice. The number of people in the store at any time will be carefully managed, and the company has highlighted that its stores have ample space, plus a wide selection of brands and products all under one roof, so that customers can avoid visiting several shops.


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