Global Retail Activity One Month After Lockdown

With certain parts of China leaving lockdown and Europe gradually easing elements of quarantine, we look at the retail trends one month on for the countries still indoors and the retail vital signs of those emerging into the light.
License Global

April 30, 2020

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People across Europe have lived under stay-at-home orders for a month or longer. Social distancing measures have been put in place across the continent to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as we all get used to our temporary new normal, countries and retailers are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Lockdown measures are gradually being loosened and retailers are beginning to make plans to welcome consumers back into shops. In countries once hit the hardest such as Italy and France, people will soon be allowed to shop again at previously shuttered retailers in a few weeks. Italian factories and parts of the supply chain that were temporarily closed will also be allowed to reopen starting just next week (

BBC

). While the French government plans to open back up certain parts of the retail ecosystem by May 11 (

Financial Times

). 

The easing of restrictions expected over the next couple of months won't welcome back the status quo we all took for granted a

year ago, but it does highlight the reality of a post-pandemic future. Over the next year, the reopened businesses will have to cope with potentially weary consumers and who are still adjusting to what happened earlier in the year. That's at least what has been seen in countries farther ahead in the pandemic timeline, such as China. 

Despite much of modern life getting back to normal in the region, people have shown to be still cautious of retail shops. According to data reported by 

Reuters

, Retail sales decreased over 15 percent in March year-on-year, extending the decline seen in the first two months of the year when the virus hit China the hardest. 

The plunge in consumption has even led local authorities and companies to create voucher programs aimed at increasing spending. While early signs don't show the program creating too much change as consumers are mostly buying essential items, the hope is the program will eventually expand to increase spending in other retail verticals hit harder by the pandemic. Li Daxiao, chief economist, Yingda Securities, told Reuters that China's economic priority should currently be to encourage spending on necessities, before potentially rolling out the program for more expensive items at a later stage. 

China's voucher program, and direct stimulus payment programs in regions like the U.S. and Hong Kong, speak to the radical ideas being introduced by companies and governments looking to stem the economic downturn caused by the shutdown. Retailers specifically are working to quickly adapt to trends towards e-commerce, where sales have been hit less hard by the stay-at-home measure. 

As more people head online while stuck at home, major companies such as eBay and NBCUniversal are pushing to provide new platforms as well as training to retailers. eBay's 

"Up & Running" program

 will help retailers develop an e-commerce presence amid storefront closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While NBCUniversal has announced, it will waive technology and cart fees for its Checkout platform for the rest of the year. 

In the coming months, shopping will still look quite different from what it used to be in the modern world. However, as the world begins to come out of the haze, the inklings of normalcy are slowly ramping up. 

The task at hand is not necessarily small, nor easy, but novel thinking from business leaders and world governments will have to play a crucial role in getting the world up-to-date as quickly as possible. As early initiatives have shown, patience and the digital world that has already been growing will be a crucial aspect of what pushes the retail world further in the next year. 

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