Retail in the time of COVID-19

March 31, 2020 | COVID-19, Insights

The Current Retail Landscape

Amidst a global crisis, we are seeing many organizations and communities leverage the power of collaboration to overcome growing challenges. Not all have been hit equally by COVID-19. So far in the retail and apparel sectors, collaboration and quick adaptation is demonstrating resiliency.
We see hope in the stories of our retail clients and others in the industry adapting to current cicumstances and playing their part in the global response:
  • Hanes is fabricating health masks for medical care providers
  • H&M and C&A are supporting their supply chains in making and distributing personal protective equipment
  • Decathalon is using snorkeling masks as a substitute for ventilator equipment
  • Target and most other supermarkets are supporting those most vulnerable to coronavirus by offering ‘senior hours’ to reduce their exposure
  • Prada is financing the ICUs of three new hospitals in Milan, and its Perugia factory has been reconfigured to produce medical garments
  • LVMH has committed to donating 40 million face masks
  • Many cosmetic companies including Coty, LVMH and Estée Lauder have begun producing hydroalcoholic gel, aka hand sanitizer to meet the growing need for personal sanitation
  • Gucci plans to provide 1,000,000 face masks and 55,000 medical overalls

Observations in North America

As the world scrambles to keep us all fed, watered, sanitized and sane, we are grateful for the individuals, communities, companies, and governments working hard to protect us. We also acknowledge the incredible and unfortunate disruption COVID-19 has had on the retail industry at large. We are indebted to the workers on the front lines keeping essential services and supply chains going in the face of this adversity, underpinned by well thought out business continuity and sustainability plans.

Many Americans are experiencing firsthand the pressure placed on supply chains by unexpected demand leading to shortages in essentials like toilet paper and sanitation products.  But the list above shows us the incredible innovation in solutions within the retail sector that engage supply chains to divert resources in order to help in the COVID-19 effort, transforming production lines to meet critical needs.

“Brands that have invested in building relationships with their suppliers across their supply chain will have better insight into the impacts for their own business and will, therefore, be best able to weather the shocks brought on by coronavirus”

Maxine Bédat
Founder and Director, New Standard Institute

COVID-19 and Sustainability

The value of communication, technology and big data are becoming more evident through the coronavirus response, as they have proven to be in activating sustainability in organizations. They help us become more agile in the face of challenging times, whether that be a global pandemic or climate change. Live dashboards have transformed this pandemic from ‘something that is happening in other countries’ to ‘we need to act, together, now.’ Real time data lets whole supply chains know what’s left on the shelf, where goods are in transit, how weather is affecting supply. We are seeing our clients achieving growing success from virtual supplier engagement through their Scope 3 engagement work – using tools such as CDP Supply Chain and Higg Index – which only helps strengthen resilience in the face of COVID-19. Retailers are also working hard to protect their workers by providing additional resources to support health and financial security  and to prevent job loss by leveraging government resources and by supporting communities.

Relationships are what keep the world turning and what will transform industry through this next evolution. We see evidence in the rapid popularization of team video calls, in the new ways that communities are coming together to support one another, and in the inherent reliance we have on one another as COVID-19 sweeps the globe. We look forward to continuing to build and sustain meaningful relationships with our clients.

Honor Cowen
Principal Consultant and Retail & Consumer Products Lead, North America

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