Relearning retail

Relearning retail


Shiv Joshi

Shiv Joshi

154 week ago — 8 min read

Pandemic introduced new words into our vocabulary and changed the very A, B, C of retail. Where yesterday 'A' meant assortment, today it is all about Agility; 'B' is not just for business but bricks and clicks, in addition to consumer; 'C' is also about contactless retail. It helped every retailer and retail professional unlearn some concepts and either learn new lessons or learn new ways of doing business. The who’s who of retail share what they learnt from this unprecedented crisis.


Adesh Kumar Gupta, CEO, Liberty Shoes Ltd
CHANGE is the only constant in life, in business or in the universe. I have heard this quote a zillions times, but I never understood its meaning, as clearly as I do now. I had read the book ‘A Whack on the Side of My Head’, a long time ago, but the whack that the pandemic has brought on all of us on our heads is so powerful that it will leave an indelible mark on everyone’s mind. I learnt many things and some lessons I will never forget, which led to making many changes in the way we do business.

If you present your point of view nicely, it is possible to get registered agreements changed.


  • Changes in buying behaviour were there on the horizon, even before COVID-19. It is only now that we feel the real need to invest in training people in technology and in infrastructure, to facilitate online shopping.
  • Today, circumstances have compelled us to make use of CRM data and serve customers at their doorsteps. Delivery of products to customers’ place within an hour, by using available manpower and brick and mortar stores as extension counters, resulted in great instant gratification that is often missed in online transactions, due to wait of 7-8 days.
  • Traditional service to customers on the shop floor is no longer welcome. Customers want to conclude shopping within 5-10 minutes instead of 30-40 minutes. Customers now find the smell of sanitizer more soothing that the fragrance of a perfume in a store.
  • If you present your point view nicely, it is possible to even get written and registered agreements without force majeure clause changed.
  • Whether it is landlords or employees, it is no longer ‘You against Me’ but ‘We are One’.
  • Remote working, using technology tools and virtual meets has not only saved traveling time and cost, but also compelled retailers to rethink the need to have huge and expensive office spaces.


Aditya Singh, Head - Jewellery International Business, Titan
Remote working: The pandemic has been a mind opener of sorts. As a team, we did some things most unthinkable of during the period. We launched our first International retail store in the middle of the pandemic, overcoming odds like commuting challenges with technology solutions such as video calls—even for things like project site work and statutory approvals. We hired the team remotely and trained them remotely. Some of these would have been just unimaginable before the pandemic.


The pandemic has taught us all the importance of personalisation at all levels.


Digital adoption: The pandemic has taught us that digital adoption is not a thing of the future, but a reality of the present. Customers switched to online quickly, even for categories like fine jewellery. Retailers too have responded by introducing concepts like video calling, enabling customer safety. The crisis also ushered in the age of leaner and smarter digital advertising—those who will be able to ride this wave successfully, will thrive.


Personalisation: Most importantly, the pandemic has taught us all the importance of personalisation at all levels, leading to customer intimacy on one hand and better managed inventory levels on the other.


Avnish Kumar, MD, Neerus - Indian Ethnic

The pandemic has definitely been a game-changer. Fashion as a category has had its own ups and downs in the past few quarters, but it was survival of the fittest. Probably this was the time when brands could actually measure their ‘real’ brand power and positioning in the market. My top three learnings from this period are:


Cut the waste, not the costs. During normal times we let go of many things but these rough times made us pause and relook at every aspect of business, assess and then resume. It taught us to focus on better bottom lines and not just on achieving top lines.


It taught us to focus on better bottom lines and not just on achieving top lines.


Reconsider the location. Retail was always all about ‘Location! Location! And Location!’ After the pandemic, in due course, it became all about ‘Relocation! Relocation! And Relocation!’ Occupancy costs in malls and high streets were always the highest expense for retailers. The pandemic helped us reconsider our existing locations and relocate to better and more profitable ones in the market and take hard calls on the Red Zoned Stores.


Get serious about omnichannel. No one can deny that the marriage of online with offline was a success. What couldn’t be done in years was accomplished in just one year i.e., to be available digitally rather phygitally and encash the capitalisation of existing stocks on channels like marketplaces, WhatsApp Business, own websites, video calls and more.


Kavitha Rao, Country Commercial Manager, IKEA India

An integrated approach: An integrated approach where the customer is the winner all the way, is the way forward. Indian consumers have been at the forefront of digital adoption, during the pandemic. We have stayed agile and engaged with our customers through an omnichannel approach, by offering a range of new services as well as opening-up ecommerce in more cities, across the country.


Safe shopping: The launch of the IKEA app and ecommerce, enabled consumers to shop safely. In addition, an array of remote services such as planning, personal shopping helped people leverage the home furnishing expertise of our co-workers from the safety of their homes. In stores too measures are in place to ensure the safety of co-workers and customers. This has helped us continue to build on the trajectory of growth.


Multifunctional home: Home furnishing is no longer a ‘nice to have’ element but an essential, to living a better everyday life locked up at home 24x7. We have tried to build on our insights of the new life at home and look into new home furnishing solutions to meet the needs, wants and desires of our consumers. We have also focused even more on affordability.


Staying agile and moving with speed has never been more important NOW than ever before.


Employees first: In challenging times, the energy and passion of our people has enabled us stay agile and meet our consumers in the best way possible. Securing their physical and mental health, focusing on their development and empowering them on the front line has helped unleash innovation and build momentum for the future.


In all, focusing on co-workers, learning from consumers and constantly adapting to their needs and bringing this to life by unleashing new ideas as well as leveraging proven methods in the business, have been the most important learnings during this pandemic. Staying agile and moving with speed has never been more important NOW than ever before.


Also read: Lasting wisdom: Lessons from the pandemic for retail businesses

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Article published in STOrai Magazine.  

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.


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