The Retail Response: The Realities of Merchandising During These Unprecedented Times

COVID-19 is unquestioningly having a massive impact on the world, none more so than on retail merchandising. While demand for necessities like food, water, and other household products has remained elevated for a number of weeks. Not surprisingly demand for some products—such as luxury goods—has contracted. Perhaps the greatest challenge retailers are facing are supply constraints that delay or limit their ability for essential products to make it to store shelves.

Retail Merchandising Response to COVID-19

National chains, especially those that fall into the category of “essential retail,” are finding themselves in the unique position of having to balance providing access to products with protecting public health and employee concerns. They are taking actions such as limiting store hours or the number of customers in-store while simultaneously trying to satisfy the increased demand for goods. Keeping locations stocked and staffed during this period has perhaps become the greatest challenge of all.

All this has created an uncertain retail environment, leaving chains trying to anticipate what new challenge will pop up in the coming day, week, or month. Amidst this uncertainty, one thing is certain: this “moment” will result in lasting effects for brick-and-mortar retail. As the pandemic wears on, we are all being forced to take a long, hard look at stress factors affecting our current retail merchandising strategies.

Inventory Management

Most demand planning strategies have been tossed aside during this crisis. Traditional methods of inventory management are out the window – and it has become a much more straight forward supply and demand problem. Potentially the greatest challenge facing retailers is getting the products on the shelf as fast as possible – while maintaining social distancing protocols and employee safety. One other factor is looking at product adjacencies – considering there is a high likelihood that everything the consumer is looking for may not be in stock – what can be offered as a substitute or option? It’s really no longer about how much product you have on hand, as it is about how quickly you can replenish.

How have your supplier timelines been affected by recent events? Being able to find the answers to these questions quickly and accurately is paramount to keeping high demand products on shelves and retaining customer satisfaction during this crisis. How can you ramp up the coordination of regional inventory data quickly and ensure its accuracy?

Shelf Management

In recent weeks, we’ve seen demand strip shelves bare in some stores. Depleted product locations on store floors have a direct impact on your teams’ workloads as they find themselves foregoing planograms and dropping everything to restock and reset entire sections. Every hour that your teams spend resetting stores has a direct correlation with your productivity and negatively impacts their ability to help customers find the products they need.

We should also consider that traditional merchandising strategies do not account for the amount of flexibility that your stores may need to react to the developing product availability on the ground. Does it make sense to replace one item in an otherwise empty aisle? Which product makes the most sense to replace in the depleted display?

Calling In Reinforcements

These are complicated issues, no doubt. But solving them does not need a complicated answer. A retail merchandising partner can help you address the hurdles that COVID-19 has brought to the demand and display portions of your merchandising strategy. The key is finding the right partner. You need a partner that has the experience and scale to service your locations nationwide, along with the unique ability to ramp up on short notice and tailor their team-structure to the unique challenges facing your business.

With over 50+ years in the industry, SPAR has delivered for some of the most well-recognized retailers and brands in the world. We invest unmatched care and dedication into the successful completion of every project we perform, and we’re proud to call our clients true partners in the process. We are even prouder that they say the same about us.

Our available retail merchandising services and ability to quickly train and deploy traveling and local merchandising teams to augment your already existing workforce will give you the needed edge to react quickly and at a national scale. Contact our knowledgeable team to see how quickly we can help! We’re all in this together.