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04/13/2021

Retailers Need to Clean Up Shop Before Welcoming Shoppers Back

Not all retailers are prepared to welcome back consumers in store, with empty racks and messy shelves harming their reputations among would-be-shoppers.
walmart parking lot

Not all retailers are prepared to welcome back consumers in store, with empty racks and messy shelves harming their reputations among would-be-shoppers.

That’s according to a report from CNBC that revealed the heightened focus on e-commerce and supply chain struggles over the last year may have enabled some retailers to let their brick-and-mortar appearances fall by the wayside.

Executive Summary

The report signals an emerging disparity between online shops and in-store experiences that could keep consumers away from brick and mortar stores at a time when they’re just starting to feel more comfortable after being vaccinated for Covid-19.

Several recent studies show the same conclusion: a significant portion of shoppers who used to shop in-store are ready to return. However, crumpled piles of clothes, unpacked boxes of inventory and employees rushing around fulfilling online orders are major turn offs for consumers. Unfortunately, many of these sites have been spotted at retailers, such as Macy’s and Walmart, which faced a stock downgrade from one research firm, R5 Capital, earlier this year as a result of messy appearances in stores, according to CNBC.

The time is now for retailers to get their acts together, with vaccinated Americans eager to get in warmer weather and more consumers armed with recent stimulus payments. Foot traffic has already picked up, and consumers are expecting more from retailers than ever, particularly when it comes to cleanliness and safety.

“Having a store that’s very messy and illogically laid out is quite very difficult for the consumer, because the consumer has to sift through a lot of things and they have to do a lot of searching to find the things that they want,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, told CNBC. “And because people have gone online more during the pandemic, when they’re coming back to shopping, their tolerance for that will have reduced even further.”

Walmart, which has faced criticism over empty shelves and out-of-stock inventory, is planning to invest $14 billion to turn a portion of its stores into fulfillment centers, which may free up some employees from fulfilling online orders right in the store. The retailer also plans to implement a sleeker store design in at least 1,200 stores this year. For some discount retailers, such as T.J. Maxx or Ross, sloppiness in stores may not be such an issue for consumers. But customers don’t expect the same necessity to dig through piles of inventory at Walmart or Macy’s, and that may lead to those retailers losing out.

While all retailers have faced supply chain issues during the Covid-19 pandemic and scrambled to optimize their online operations, keeping customers happy during in-store experiences should be critical, CNBC noted.