Bertand Leseigneur, our Retail Innovation US correspondent, this month shares with us the dramatic situation for retailers in NYC since the Covid19.
As time goes by, retail in New York opens its doors again and welcomes customers according to strict rules and with the obligation to wear the mask. A standard now common to all continents!
The general situation in New York
New York now appears to be the state with the best overall health situation in the United States in relation to the Coronavirus epidemic. The number of deaths linked to Covid19 is very low, the number of hospitalisations is at its lowest and the population understands the importance of wearing the mask and respecting barrier gestures.
The city of NY has therefore been able to reopen gradually and New Yorkers are starting to revive (almost) normally.
Practically all the stores that were able to get through the crisis are now open again, respecting a maximum number of customers in the store and asking for masks to be worn. Macy‘s is one of the first department stores to reopen with… wider aisles and a redesign of checkout lines to respect social distance.
1) Delivery around the corner
This is the most striking trend of this reopening. In order to limit travel and deliveries and to use stores in the city, many brands have developed the “curbside pickup” strategy, which simply consists of coming to the store to pick up the products you ordered online.
Contrary to “click & collect”, the customer does not go back to the store to get his purchase. Stores have therefore developed different strategies to be warned of the customer’s arrival.
Employees located outside the store greet the customer, check his order and can then call the staff in stock to get the product.
This is the case at Nordstrom.
And if the store clerk is not outside: you can always call and park in one of the designated parking bays.
The option is usually offered on the site or mobile application when you place your order.
Other brands, such as the furniture store CB2, offer the customer a text message to notify them of their arrival.
At UNIQLO, we remind you of the rules to be respected: the customer must keep his distance and stay out of the store to limit the number of people present and avoid contact as much as possible.
2) The QR Codes
The QR Codes have made a comeback on the NYC scene! The main interest of this tool is to inform the customer when he is in front of the store but cannot enter.
The food service industry uses it a lot to allow sharing of example the menu, but stores also use this technology.
You can do your “Window shopping” by passing in front of a store and buy the product seen in the window as here at Steve Madden. By scanning this QR Code, you have direct access to Steve Madden’s e-commerce site and you can search for the product you are interested in. No service innovation but the brand wants to take advantage of the interest of passers-by to attract them to the website.
Or at Etsy.
Banks also use it to offer virtual queuing services so that they do not have to wait on the street. By using this system you can give information to the bank about the reason for your visit and you will receive an SMS to schedule an appointment.
Finally, many stores use QR Codes to facilitate payment by Venmo, the payment system we have already talked about on the site, so that the customer doesn’t have to type the name of the store in his application to pay.
3) By appointment
Many shops have opened using a technique that could continue after the crisis: shopping by appointment. Whether it is Apple, Best Buy or others, making an appointment to go into a store allows you to welcome customers who will be accompanied by salespeople. Best Buy recommends that customers using this service download the application so that they can compare prices on the site and benefit from all the advantages offered by the store, particularly in the area of delivery. In New York City you have to announce yourself at the entrance of the store and a salesperson will accompany you during your purchases or will direct you to a specialized salesperson according to your needs.
At Apple, the process is very strict: you can only enter the store at the time of the appointment and after passing through a temperature check. Once this step has been completed, the customer must then wait for their appointment in a specific line to respect the rules of social distancing.
If you have an appointment at the “genius Bar”, you won’t be able to visit the shop by yourself afterwards. Each appointment must be linked to a specific request: an appointment to repair your property or purchase an Apple product accompanied by a salesperson. It remains to be seen whether this system will last, because while it is interesting in terms of accompanying the customer, it limits impulse purchases in the store.
4) Closures and bankruptcies
The list of companies that declare bankruptcy is quite long. The famous “Chapter 11 Bankruptcies” do not mean a total cessation of activity, but they allow these companies to restructure their debt and reorganise themselves. It seems that the most affected sector is the apparel sector at the sight of this list of major bankruptcies in the United States.
However, many chains of bankrupt stores will have to limit the number of retail spaces they have and could be targeted for acquisition by competitors or… Amazon. Many rumors are currently circulating about Amazon’s appetite for JC Penney or Neiman Marcus and thus position Jeff Bezos’ firm a little more in the fashion industry.