How is COVID-19 Affecting Retail in North America

By March 30, 2021 Blog No Comments

How is COVID-19 Affecting Retail in North America

The past year has seen a drastic change in the retail industry, with crippling lockdowns sending some major retailers into bankruptcy and many others being left in a limbo that never seems to end. Despite this record-breaking economic downturn, the pandemic has given enterprising retailers both new and old an opportunity to not only pull through the effects of COVID-19 but also to thrive from it.   

As your packaging provider, Crownhill Packaging has firsthand knowledge and experience with how the pandemic has shaped the needs of businesses, including those in retail. In this post, we will be exploring how COVID-19 has altered the retail landscape and redefined consumer behaviour with potentially permanent effects.

COVID-19: The Main Challenges for Retail

The retail sector has been arguably the most damaged by the consequences of a global pandemic. National or state lockdowns have meant many stores have seen consecutive months of devastatingly low sales, and those without a presence online or in catalogs have suffered the most. Given how seasonality affects retail, many retailers saw an unusually poor holiday period in 2020 with an undesirable amount of unsellable stock still in their stores. 

Retailers also face the challenges of an increasingly inactive workforce. Key players such as cashiers, salesclerks and store managers in non-essential retail rely on financial support with minimal to zero productivity as they wait it out at home.

The Continued Rise of E-Commerce

Against these challenges, there has been a solution. Despite many businesses facing the risk of shutdown from zero revenue, many have also managed to thrive by adapting to alternative methods of delivering their products to their customers.

E-commerce has bloomed during the pandemic for several reasons. It not only allows customers to find the items they want from the convenience of their own homes and devices, but it also gives them the opportunity to directly compare products. The in-store shopping experience that was long seen as a unique trait is now being easily mimicked by online retailers. For example, online stores offer online chat and sales support, with some even using virtual reality to allow customers to visualize a product in their own home.   

It should be noted that e-commerce has not arisen out of the blue. Giants like Amazon and eBay already provide well over a decade of service to their customers, while shopping platforms like Etsy and Shopify making selling products online a valid option for small businesses. Yet the recent shakeup from the pandemic has managed to accelerate e-commerce growth far beyond previous expectations.

National lockdowns and altered supply chains mean shopping online has become the safest and most convenient way for consumers to obtain products. As a result of this rapid growth and a transition to the gig economy, businesses are becoming even more incentivized to offer fast shipping times in order to compete with the thriving online marketplace. Therefore, having a robust packaging and shipping partner has become a massive asset to any retailer looking to lead in their respective market.

What Do Vaccinations Mean for Retail?

With vaccination programs now in full swing across the United States and Canada, it is reasonable to assume that physical retail stores will see their customers return over the next year.

However, physical retail stores will be returning to an entirely different landscape with changed competitors who are now engaging online as well as in store. Consumers are unlikely to make a fast leap back to cities and shopping malls. Many of the traditional factors that were admirable about in-store shopping are now being duplicated online and offer greater convenience with lower prices. Furthermore, economic downturn and job losses incurred from the pandemic signal a change in consumer behaviour similar to the 2009 recession that saw many seek affordability first. Once again, e-commerce is best positioned to tend to consumers’ needs over traditional retailers.  

Contact Us Today

Despite the eventual return to in-person shopping, having an online store presence has become even more essential for businesses looking to grow in 2021 and 2022. If you are interested in taking your physical store online and wish to deliver your products to your customers, you will need quality packaging to do so. At Crownhill Packaging, we provide a wide range of logistics and packaging solutions that are uniquely tailored to your business needs. Discover how we can help by contact our team today to learn more.