De-escalation measures are beginning to take place in countries around the world, and as we all begin to imagine our lives post-pandemic, everyone is asking the same question: What will the “new normal” look like?
As part of our #HowTechHelps series, Joe Colvin, Sales Director Northern Europe, and Alistair Kershaw, PLM Business Consultant, recently hosted a webinar — What’s in Store after the Peak? — to discuss the current state of the retail, fashion, luxury and consumer goods industries, how retailers have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, what the future will look like, and why technology is the key to overcoming future market challenges.
4 future predictions surfaced in their conversation, shedding light on what the near future will look like post-pandemic.
4 Post-pandemic Predictions by Joe Colvin and Alistair Kershaw
1. Retail stores will become showrooms.
While confinement measures are slowly being lifted across Europe, North America, and other regions, governments are insisting on precautions in order to avoid a second outbreak. Citizens in several countries will still need to keep a 2-meter distance from each other, wear masks, sanitize hands when entering stores, and respect limited-capacity restrictions in public spaces.
“So, how will this impact retail? Will people still want to go inside and shop in stores or will retail spaces serve more as a showcase for items now?” asks Joe Colvin.
With consumers being increasingly concerned about health and hygiene, Joe’s doubt is one that many are wondering. Retailers need to look for ways to ensure a safer shopping experience, especially when it involves fitting rooms and trying on items.
Alistair Kershaw points to a retail trend in Shanghai in which luxury brands are treating their retail spaces more like showrooms, where shoppers browse and then buy and try on products at home.
Online retailers like Asos have already been fueling this try-on-at-home behavior for a while now. Omnichannel retailers will most likely follow this trend even when their brick-and-mortar opens back up. “Shoppers are already used to ordering 3 different sizes of the same garment to meet the minimum spend for free shipping, and then return the ones they don’t need,” says Alistair. He adds, “With free return policies, e-commerce sites like Asos encourage customers to try many items on at home, so we’ll probably see this happening even more in post-pandemic times with consumers being concerned about the hygiene of physical fitting rooms.”
“As online shopping increases, do you think this will impact assortments? What role do we play in this at Centric Software?” asks Joe.
“There’s turmoil in the industry and the economy in general. It has led to a lot of people being laid off, while others are worried about job security. I think this will result in a move towards more basics, different splits in the category of products regardless of how brands segment offerings. Being able to plan different splits in categories and assortments in a flexible way is absolutely essential right now. In our Centric Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution, we offer a merchandising planning tool that very quickly and easily models things like how the split of different product categories will affect the overall sales, for example. We also have secondary planning for different geographies and sales channels,” says Alistair.
Joe responds by highlighting the complexity of it all “You’re talking about channels, changing, demand curves shifting, adjusting assortments…that’s a lot of change to manage all at once unless you’ve got the ability to do that in a centralized form.”
“Yes, and communicating these changes is key,” says Alistair. “People find Excel spreadsheets to be flexible tools, and yes, they can be, but it’s not a good way to go if you’ve got a large group of people who are involved. You need a single source of truth that can be linked to your ERP, your warehouse management tool, etc…so you can quickly inform partners about your planning and have everyone work on the same plan in real-time. Centric PLM™ not only allows quick communication, but it brings margin visibility so you can protect those product margins that are now under increased pressure.”
2. ‘Revenge buying’ will fuel a surge in consumerism.
Another question Joe brought up in the What’s in Store after the Peak? webinar is whether people will be eager to buy post-pandemic. “Will there be as much eagerness to go shopping? Or do you think it will be reserved? What will the new consumer be like after this?” he asks.
The duo once again looks to China for answers, bringing up the trending term “revenge buying.” According to Business of Fashion, “revenge buying” was first coined in the 1980s to describe “pent up demand for foreign products that had been denied [to China’s] citizens when the nation was closed off to the world.” However, the expression is “recently being used across Chinese social media as a way to describe how ordinary citizens were dreaming of treating themselves once quarantine was lifted,” as described in Robb Report.
“People haven’t been able to buy because stores have been closed, so there will be a spending spree when they get back out which will lead to a boom,” says Alistair. “It will be a swing back for the economy. There is some expectation amongst some people that that’s going to happen. Although, I think that’s more likely to be the case for entertainment or licensed trade (restaurants, bars, etc). I think that’s less so the case for consumer goods and apparel, since we’re still in a position to buy consumer goods, it’s just that they’re coming through a very different channel than they were before,” he concludes.
3. Brands will shift towards more diversified sourcing strategies.
When factories in China began shutting down due to the spread of COVID-19, retail, fashion, luxury, outdoor, home décor, footwear, consumer goods and other businesses were faced with unexpected challenges. They needed to respond quickly and switch suppliers and countries of production.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of fragmentation in sourcing over some considerable time, particularly as the industry is trying to play closer to the market, reduce overstock, and play on-trend,” says Alistair. The pandemic has only accelerated this need for supplier diversification. “Everything was coming from the cheapest possible, far-Asian country, but now with major market disruption, brands are needing to quickly split their assortment geographically and boost multiple-supplier sourcing strategies.”
Alistair adds, “Centric PLM also enables multiple-supplier sourcing with an automated way of requesting quotes and specs with built-in out-of-the-box functionalities like shipping rates, exchange rates, and duty tables. You can get a side-by-side comparison across multiple geographies and currencies, taking ethical situations and code of conduct into account. Once you receive your quotes and select the most appropriate suppliers, you can quickly flush out your assortment within the platform. It’s really quite powerful!”
4. Digital Transformation will be more crucial than ever.
McKinsey & Company recently released their COVID-19: Briefing Note in which they emphasize the importance of digital transformation, and how having the right technologies can be a key differentiator in surviving the current global crisis.
“In their report, McKinsey warns to prepare for what’s next and not stop investments in digital as they’re more crucial than ever before. Businesses will need to be faster and more agile to move forward, especially in situations in which we can’t travel freely to visit suppliers across the pond,” says Joe.
Below, Joe and Alistair share a chart mapping out the different technologies and innovations that are supporting brands throughout the supply chain:
“Digital transformation was certainly a priority before, but you get a global incident taking place and it brings it into sharp focus,” says Alistair. “Once this is all over, companies will have realized that they can have people working from home and cut back on office expenses. They’ll also see that they don’t need to send people half-way around the world to their suppliers.”
Innovations such as 3D design software, which can be easily integrated with Centric PLM thanks to the agnostic Centric 3D Connect plugin, allows for rapid virtual prototyping.
“3D sketches are now replacing physical samples. Rapid 3D prototyping accelerates time-to-market because you no longer need to produce or send out samples halfway around the world. The added bonus is that it’s also greener!”
Not only do digital innovations like Centric PLM, 3D design, AI, digital collaboration boards, and others enable remote collaboration, rapid decision-making, and faster time to market, but they also empower brands to become more environmentally friendly.
“At an unfortunate time, we can derive good things,” concludes Joe.
Prepare for future market challenges in the post-pandemic era
Want to learn more about how Centric Software’s solutions empower brands like Auchan, Louis Vuitton, Crocs, Deuter, Balenciaga and Cape Union Mart to react quickly and adapt to market shifts while safeguarding their margins? Request more information here.