Retailers Feeling More Positive About 2021 Rebound

With more Americans vaccinated, retailers are gaining a rosier outlook for a brick-and-mortar recovery.

That’s according to a recent International Council of Shopping Centers survey of retailers and commercial real estate companies that revealed 65% of CRE leaders and 55% of retailers expect a return to pre-pandemic shopping levels by the end of the year. And that jibes with recent data finding that retail sales surged in April as shoppers returned to stores.

However, the vast majority of retailers are still concerned about safety measures, with 80% of small CRE firms likely to continue using plexiglass barriers to protect employees and shoppers over the next 12 months. Another 76% reported they will keep shortened hours, although only 53% of large CRE firms said the same. The majority of large CRE firms (76%) also plan to have increased sanitization, and 58% of independent retailers are prioritizing crowd management.

Retailers adapted to rapidly changing consumer behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, with two-thirds of retailers beginning to offer in-store fulfillment of online orders. Among small retailers, 73% implemented a click-and-collect option for shoppers. The pandemic also changed how brick-and-mortar retailers operate, with a whopping 88% of shopping centers being used to fulfill online orders. Just about all (99%) of retail respondents said stores fulfilled online orders to some degree.

“For retail and retail real estate, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t spurred a total reinvention, but a rapid acceleration of trends that were already taking shape,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Stores were already offering curbside pickup, ramping up click-and-collect and rethinking store formats. What we’ve seen since March is a remarkable expansion of that, which will create a better experience for consumers as they return to stores and shopping centers.”

While the recent surge in online shopping stemmed from the pandemic, the elevated levels are expected to remain and drive retailers to continue investing in their digital channels. 

See the full story at Chain Store Age.