The shake-up to UK business that came with the coronavirus crisis has triggered significant changes across multiple industries – perhaps none more so than retail.
Instances of stockpiling and new social distancing requirements mean that supermarkets needed a total rethink on how they operate.
Retail industry experts, such as Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer, have long observed the so-called “price war” between the top four supermakets and discounters. However, Leyland has stated that prices won’t be as significant during this economic downturn.
Now, the focus is on availability, and shoppers are willing to pay a premium when demand outstrips supply – as it did in the case of toilet paper and other essential items earlier this year.
The fact stockpiling has been back on the news agenda in September 2020 as a second wave builds means that retailers are having to be more forceful.
Many have already begun to ration certain products, such as toilet paper, and directly asked their customers not to panic buy. This shows how the sector needs to stay ahead of the curve to ensure supply continues to meet demand.
The online experience
One thing we can also note from the coronavirus crisis is the shift to online shopping – something we explored in a blog post over the summer. People are increasingly opting for home deliveries rather than battling with masks and one-way systems just for a loaf of bread.
Shopping online minimises consumers’ contact with the outside world, in line with the government’s social distancing advice.
This has meant supermarkets have adapted their online platforms to accommodate increased sales and hired skilled delivery drivers as priority over on-floor staff.
Many have also introduced priority online access for the most vulnerable and implemented virtual queues to manage demand.
Discounters like Lidl and Aldi, so used to being the disruptors in the UK market, have been disrupted by this digital shift. The move has triggered Aldi to trial a ‘click and collect’ option and partner with Deliveroo to offer delivery on essential items – both completely new offerings for the brand.
Analysts believe the surge in online shopping could be permanent, marking a new era for grocery retailing.
In terms of the bigger picture, lockdown has given everyone time to think about their choices when it comes to buying products.
As a result, the pandemic seems to have triggered greater consumer interest in sustainable shopping options. For example, the Coop recently announced an in-store collection scheme for single-use plastics, in a bid to reduce its environmental impact.
We think there’s a lot of potential for more positive change of this kind to come as the pandemic plays out.
Though COVID-19 has had such a devastating effect on a global scale, it’s time for businesses to learn and adapt to meet the ‘new normal’.
Keep an eye on our LinkedIn channels to find out how we plan on doing just that. WEPA caters for any kind of retail, with a range of product sizes ideal for convenience and online channels, as well as large-scale pack-sizes for wholesalers.
Visit our products page to find out more.