Retail: What does the Post-Pandemic Future Hold?

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In the beginning of 2020, physical retail had a challenging, yet somewhat promising outlook country wide. Consumer spending was at an all-time high. Then the pandemic struck and essentially crippled the industry.

As we slowly begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, landlords, tenants, lenders, community organizations, non-profits, and consumers are all working together to reopen American retailers and restaurants. While the pandemic was catastrophic, with long-lasting and permanent changes to our lives and habits, there have been some positive retail trends that we have seen emerge, shaping the future of tenant operations and shopping center designs:

  • Better omnichanneling options while deploying enhanced digital and mobile platforms
    • From giant retailers to smaller direct-to-consumer brands, the importance of offline experiences that leverage the technology and convenience of ecommerce will continue to be paramount.
    • The companies that get it right will make sure every touchpoint is frictionless as digital consumers tend to be more demanding and impatient.
  • Better store layouts with visual brand representation and a great brick-and-mortar store experience
    • Successful stores have begun to offer MOPIS (mobile order pickup shelves) or BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store) counters just off the entrance.
    • Additionally, offering curbside pickup and virtual payment options continue to cater to the digital consumer and increase in-person safety measures.
  • Continuing to evolve to reopen American retailers and restaurants across the country and make the industry even stronger than it was before
    • Touchless technology such as contactless payments, V/R fitting rooms, A/R cosmetic testing, etc. will provide a more interactive, personalized, and safe experience.

Other advancements to watch across the industry:

  • Malls will be reimagined from multi-level boxes anchored by department stores to more enticing, smaller environments with a sense of community.
  • The addition of outdoor dining, relaxing seating, inviting landscape design, and wayfinding improvements provide a welcoming destination for visitors to enjoy in addition to their shopping needs.
  • Landlords and retailers are encouraged to reverse-engineer how they navigate their own online journey as well as their physical space to bring the ease and accessibility of ecommerce to brick-and-mortar.
  • Conversion of empty commercial spaces into mini-fulfillment and logistics centers for supply chain management may require properties to be rezoned from commercial to industrial uses.

While COVID-19 has undoubtedly slowed the openings of new brick-and-mortar stores, offline experiences from previously online-only brands will continue to expand in 2021. Ultimately, consumers’ values, how they align with brands, and how they do or do not spend their money has changed. It is our job to meet those needs in order to bounce back and be successful post-pandemic.