Following another year marred by zoom calls, travel restrictions and excessive online shopping, the gradual reopening of our economy has many overjoyed at the prospect of ‘getting back out there’. In fact, if the previous post-lockdown period and other ‘open’ countries of the world are anything to go by, a significant upswing in out-of-home activity is inevitable. For the hard-hit brick and mortar businesses of Australia this is welcome news, but they are being encouraged to ready the room for a retail resurgence.
The growth of e-commerce has been irrepressible throughout the pandemic, with the expendable incomes usually spent on travel or social events being hurled towards online retailers. Despite the obvious benefits of online retail, the lengthy lockdown periods have left Australians longing for the stimulation of in-person services, be it shopping, dining, haircuts or any of those things we haven’t been able to do for some time now!
There are a number of contributing factors that are predicted to drive a retail resurgence beyond just a readiness for people to get out of home. At Black Lab Design, we can help Australian retailers ready their spaces for the return of customers who carry new concerns, preferences and habits.
The Signs are Promising for Retailers
Following the long lockdown periods of 2020, Australia’s retail sector enjoyed a remarkable bounce back, well beyond many forecasts. Customer visits to Westfield, which dropped to just 16 million at the height of the pandemic in April 2020, were back to a near pre-COVID 46 million in the December quarter. At the time it was noted by Michael Bate, Head of Retail at Colliers that “households are spending their savings accumulated during the COVID-19 period and retail trade is increasing”. The trends of the opening up period of late 2020 to early 2021 will repeat for this most recent post-lockdown period. Overseas travel still won’t be widely available to Australians this Christmas, meaning that a potential $60 billion which is normally spent by Australians overseas every year will be re-directed domestically.
Perth has enjoyed minimal COVID restraints thanks to WA’s hard border and has already witnessed signs of a retail resurgence. According to the BETWEEN THE LINES Perth Retail Strips October 2021 report, improving economic conditions within the State has had a significant impact on employment and residential house prices which has served to stimulate local retail trade levels across most sectors.
“I’m confident that there is a strong future for shopping centres, as well as local stores here in Australia.“Steven Cain, Coles Group Chief Executive
The likelihood for shoppers to go ‘on-foot’ this Christmas is being driven further by ongoing global supply chain disruptions. On-line sellers, favoured for their typically fast delivery times, are being hampered by major shipping delays and cost increases. Bottlenecks at ports and drastic shipping container cost increases have left many retailers unable to keep up with demand, leading to public concerns around the availability of inventories to fulfil their Christmas gift needs. This will push shoppers to look local and head back to shopping malls and neighbourhood retailers. So for shop owners and businesses it’s time to ready the room for a retail resurgence.
Being Ready for a Retail Resurgence
What do we mean by ‘ready the room’? The pandemic has had a considerable and lasting effect on consumers. Concerns about social distancing and exposure time to others will remain. The average consumer will demand nimble and more personalised service, higher safety standards and greater levels of communication. With a heavy reliance on digitally enabled services throughout the pandemic, such as click and collect shopping and QR codes, consumers have become accustomed to the low-contact, quick transactions that digital allows.
This means returning retail customers will be drawn to the locations that have been able to expedite the shopping experience with the help of digital screens and kiosks, QR code scanning, and the implementation of in-store ecommerce browsing. For example, sportswear retailer Nike has bought their e-commerce site in-store with digital screens that allow customers to browse a larger range of products.
Building interactive, intelligent and immersive retail spaces will ensure customers feel both excited and safe about the prospect of leaving home for their shopping. Investment in digital technologies such a display screens will prove essential to the survival of brick and mortar retail and ensure the likes of restaurants, bars, gyms, and cinemas are ready for the retail resurgence.