Three Retail Lessons of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the one-year mark, retailers can look back to find guidance on how to move forward.

COVID-19 continues, but with vaccinations picking up speed, things finally appear to be going in the right direction. Nobody can say exactly when the “new normal” of post-pandemic retail will arrive or what it will entail, but the following three lessons the industry has learned over the past year will surely apply.

The three rules of inventory – location, location, location
Sudden surges in consumer demand for paper and antibacterial products left retailers scrambling to find this inventory in the early days of the pandemic. Social unrest and extreme weather events have also created unforeseeable supply chain shortages and disruptions.

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Ultimately, inventory success is measured by the same metric as real estate – location is everything. Unless retailers know where inventory is in real or close to real time, having it serves them little purpose. Many retailers are adopting machine learning technology to enable fast response and adjustment to inventory shocks that predictive algorithms cannot forecast.

However, retailers should also invest in location-tracking technologies, such as RFID, automated barcode scanning, and/or computer vision, that can quickly and accurately identify the position and volume of inventory, regardless of unexpected demand fluctuations.

Say goodbye to channels (for real this time)
Ever since “omnichannel” first reared its head as an industry buzzword about 10 years ago, pundits have been predicting the end of distinctly separated physical and digital channels in retail. While the lines between channels have blurred since then, silos have still remained (at least on the back end)…  Chain Store Age

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