I think the guidelines are too strict and have an unnecessary one size fits all approach. Every retailer is different and will operate in their own way to make their store safe to use.
However, what is mandatory and what is advising? Changing rooms being closed 'wherever possible' sounds more advisory than an absolute instruction.
Stores with several fitting rooms and light footfall - which we would include ourselves in that going forward - could easily operate our changing rooms safely on a restricted use basis. Would we be breaking any rules?
While safety is the number one priority, if physical retail is going to have a chance to get back to a viable operating level, the public do not need overly restricted stores otherwise they will continue to use online and may give up on bricks and mortar and some already have.
What retail has to be honest about is whether there is enough consumers to make physical retail viable going forward. In some cases that will no, but that is necessary for those that remain to have a slightly larger slice of a diminishing cake.
Social distancing on current levels and a fully functioning economy is not possible. Clothing retail will be hit like other industries, with owners large and small having to be realistic of what lies ahead of them.
The only way of survival is to downsize the business to a level to service the customer level that will exist, but who wants to be in business purely to survive?
There will be lots of questions for the industry going forward, but our fear is that they will not be addressed as it sticks to the same old ways.
A very sober assessment is required for what will be an extremely difficult time ahead for all aspects of our industry.
More legalised fraud.
Discounting is only heading one way and that is more of it as online sales are the first port of call.
In theory, if less product is made and is sold at the right time, there would be much less need for reductions, but it will never happen.
The fear for retail, especially those that solely rely on their physical store/s, is that many shoppers will not migrate back to bricks and mortar for two main reasons - safety and convenience.
How about keeping it until next year, or is that too sensible?
There is no point in giving stock it away for the sake of it, especially in Men's fashion where there is little difference in product from one year to the next.
I think you'll be seeing a lot of this going forward. The way we communicate has changed arguably quicker than the industry, so expensive HQ's are becoming superfluous in many cases and will be sold.
In our experience so far, brands are being fairly reasonable. There has to be some give and take, though it would make no sense for a brand to send out any items that a retailer could not afford, so in many cases I'm sure a deal can be reached, e.g extended terms, moving items to next season, discounts etc.
It is in both parties interest that a deal can be reached, otherwise it would be impossible for the retailer to buy into SS21, though that season may been truncated due to the potential level of unsold SS20 told.
It must be pointed out that COVID-19 has not affected all brands and retailers in the same way. Core items such as denim, t-shirts and sports causal wear have still sold well online, whereas seasonal items such as shirts and formalwear have been poor to non existent for obvious reasons.
The message to brands and retailers is to work together to find a solution. If either party starts to play hardball, it will be counter productive with the relationship difficult to continue.
I don't believe discounting in store is the answer once shops are allowed to open. It will make shops even less viable than they currently are.
The reason for this is that there will be less shoppers, although how many less is uncertain. Margin must be made on the ones that do decide to venture out, but that consumer was already becoming a minority. Retaining that customer must be done in different ways.
The time closed has given us plenty of options for the future, but one is certainly opening reduced hours, as some stores open for too many hours in relation to the money they are taking.
The big question is how many bricks and mortar customers that have migrated to online in lockdown, will go back to their old shopping habits. That will vary from retailer to retailer, but a likely drop may change their thinking about how they view their future priorities.
Best of luck to everyone.
Essentially this article could have largely been written if COVID-19 had not existed. What it has changed is the speed of how the industry will change because of it. An accellaration of the inevitable, with a pile of dead wood to go with it.
Almost all retailers will have to run at an reduced level for an unspecified time level, due to weakened consumer demand and ever changing shopping habits.
Lockdown should be used as an eye opener of how your business is gong to be run in the future. Businesses big and small, new or established can learn something from the challenges of the present.
We are no different. An Indie for over nearly 55 years, last year was the final one where our store took the lions share for the turnover. Since Christmas, we have been online biased as a businesses and that has helped us in this lockdown period where we are exclusively online.
Has it been as enjoyable? Certainly not. We miss the public and I hope they miss us - a little bit! However, it has been a much simpler, easier and more manageable way to run a business. While we cannot envisage going down a wholly online road, the lockdown period has certainly given us much food for thought. I wonder if any other Indies in a similar position feel the same?
We all want to see as many retailers get through this in one piece, but they must manage their expectations to suit the tough road that lies ahead.