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Why leading retail brands do well in bad times as well as good

Leading retail brands always perform well – not just during the good times.

While the Covid-19 outbreak has delivered a serious crisis to the retail industry – resulting in a strong revenue decline, job cuts and occasionally bankruptcy for many retail brands – facing challenges should never stop retailers.

Instead of remaining paralysed and unable to act, industry players need to look past the setbacks and focus on establishing new plans and moving forward.

Challenges help us to grow, and a challenge always has several sides. Looking at the same difficult situation from a different angle can sometimes reveal opportunities.

Is it possible to use the current threat and convert it into something positive for your brand?

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we believe that it is our responsibility as managers to spin this situation around strategically until it is possible to gain leverage from it. Whether this is by improving the overall business model or creating a stronger market position, the overall result comes from the actions taken by the brand today.

We owe it to ourselves, to our companies, and to our teams, to remain functional and keep creating a positive impact.

How can brand managers change their perspective and come out leading after the crisis? While there may be no limits to creative leadership, here are a couple of examples on how to strengthen a retail brand:

Strengthen personal relationships with VIP clients: People spending extended hours at home appreciate personalised services even more than usual. Sales consultants in stores have additional time since fewer customers are now visiting stores. While sales are low, focus more on personal interaction with your most valued clients via digital means. This will help to improve brand loyalty while the market is down and increase market share and revenue once spending picks up again.

Develop digital services: This could be new services or small add-on services in addition to a standard product range, such as the offering of professional styling advice online. Omnichannel strategies should be reviewed, considering how digital channels might be a substitute for physical ones in times of crisis.

Think of new products: The mindset of consumers has changed during Covid-19. Topics that have become more important are sustainability, honesty/trust, quality, family, and health. It’s important to leverage these themes for new products, collections and marketing campaigns.

Stabilise and streamline your base: Review your set of processes and operational structure. Check if processes still make sense, if there are areas of excess bureaucracy that can be removed. This is a good time to train and empower frontline staff.

Review brand positioning and marketing messages: Is this still in line with the original mission and calling of the brand, when it was filling a niche and servicing a need in the market, something that only this company would be able to do? Use this time to readjust brand positioning and realign marketing messages to a crisp new vision. Then adapt the retail store design concept accordingly and make sure customers are engaged in the brand’s story and lifestyle.

Sustainability: Use the additional time on hand to digitise documentation and delete paper usage from all operations. While this should be done foremost with the value of environmental consciousness at heart, it can also be written about on social media, promoting the business as an environmentally friendly brand.

Create transparency as a brand: In times of crisis, transparency and honesty are key. This applies to communication within organisations, but also at the brand level. Be as transparent as possible, and keep communicating. If this was not a strength of the business in the past, ensure it is now.

Retailers, what are your plans to make the best out of challenging 2020?

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