Is that light at the end of the tunnel?

Well folks, after 2 months in lock up (…), it looks like the shackles might be coming off in a couple of weeks, right in the middle of June. It’s been a crazy time, frustrating for some, relaxing for others, however I think we all share a sense of foreboding for the ‘new’ new!

Looking back, what have we learned?

  • Home made bread each day is brilliant, but it seems to pile on the pounds…
  • Make sure that you’re well stocked up on wine at all times, so you won’t get caught out in the next pandemic.
  • Working from home, although easier than expected, doesn’t stack up to being in the office from time to time.
  • Zoom is great! Zoom is awful! Refrain from doing 6 or more calls back-to-back in one day.
  • Organising people and setting up new procedures takes twice as long over the phone, compared to walking into a few people’s offices.
  • Exercise does aid mental wellbeing.
  • Generally, retailer’s digital channels need more investment, particularly in UX, in order to cope with a surge in demand like what we have just experienced.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention, judging by the entrepeneurship of local companies, who morphed their businesses into delivering a service or product in an entirely new way.

What needs to be done in the next 3 weeks?

  • Sell the bread machine on eBay …!
  • New store procedures for customers need to be tested, honed and fine tuned.
  • Store staff need to be divided into shift teams, so that the same people always work on the same shift to avoid spreading infection.
  • Store staff need to be trained in the new ‘rules of engagement’, is there enough protective equipment to go around, what rules need to be invented for staff rest rooms?
  • New store replenishment schedules need to be drawn up.
  • How do we ramp up staffing levels in distribution centres?
  • Bearing in mind the restrictions that will be in place for the foreseeable future, how do we make in-store shopping a great experience for those customers who dare to venture out? How do we get them to shout about it to their friends, family and neighbours?
  • How, as leaders, do you stay empathetic to those on the front line risking infection?

And, thinking about it, what are our expectations for the future?

  • There is no doubt that we’ll see a more widespread flexible working pattern across most jobs and positions.
  • This ought to lead to a less frantic commute for most, which unfortunately will lead to subdued demand for all those travel retailers, coffee shops and lunch providers.
  • Demand planning will be largely based on gut feel for the next 15 months, as it’ll be foolish to use last years’ figures. After all we don’t know to what extent demand bounces back and for what product – have shopping habits changed?
  • More store closures, as digital channel sales will be higher than pre-lockdown, and more stores will prove to be unprofitable.
  • Traditional retailers will see heightened competition from wholesalers and brands, both of whom will continue to grow their direct-to-consumer proposition.

And from a recruitment perspective?

In a downturn companies need to have key personnel in place, who have experience of managing through a recession. These individuals will therefore be in high demand. Whilst supply of these managers should be static, in reality supply will be restricted, as people generally are less inclined to change jobs in a downturn if they don’t have to. On that happy note, we’re open for business!