Retail & Distribution

What’s the “New Normal” for Retail Stores?

12 May 2020

4 min
With retailers across Europe beginning to re-open their stores, the battle plans of many brands are being put to the test. Retail has forcibly undergone a rigorous overhaul, because in short - every aspect of retail has been upended. From supply chain integrity to frontline staff adaptability, the solutions and contingency's that were so rapidly pulled together will now form the basis of the “new normal”. Set out below are some practical ways that retailers have begun to implement as new ways of working in their stores:

Safety first

Protecting people has to be the key focus, for customers and staff. A plan of preparedness filtering down to managers, needs to support their ability to cope with the new hygiene measures and allow them to actively support customers returning to stores.

  • Hand sanitiser stations at key touchpoints. PPE or masks may be mandatory across supply-chains and stores.
  • Shoppers booking appointments so they don’t have to queue to get into the store – some having to check in first, to an area where they get gloves, masks and hand sanitiser.
  • Items may have to be sanitised each time they are tried on.
  • Social distancing in-store with floor markings and a dedicated member of staff to ensure distancing guidelines are met.
  • Closure of fitting rooms and removal of demo areas that draw crowds into tight areas of the store.
  • Staff will need to be trained on how to implement these guidelines and manage each stage on a day to day basis.

Digital initiatives

Opportunities exist to offset the offline shortfall. Looking at customer segmentation allows for personalisation which will entice shoppers and enhance brand loyalty at this crucial time.

  • Click & Collect is the hero, allowing customers to book their collection slot to minimise contact and risk.
  • Ship from store enables store associates to fulfil online orders directly from the nearest store.
  • Empty shop floor areas where stock used to fit, can now become video walls, utilised for clever catwalks.
  • Order in-store services means customers can get their item delivered to their home even if it’s not available at that moment.
  • Store staff may call customers and make planned video calls to show them the latest merchandise. Create a live stream on Instagram of new product launches, strengthening the omnichannel offering.
  • Buyers and designers can review stocklines using VR headsets where available.
  • Virtual changing rooms can allow a garment to be “tried on” online or in the store so you can still see what it looks like on. Augmented Reality has been a useful tool for many brands in overlaying images using mobile phone technology.
  • Our customer – Browns is equipping sales associates with an app that allows them to book fitting rooms for customers and view their online wish list.
  • It will be vital for store associates to have all info they need on their customers (preferences, style, etc.) so they can recommend the right products. A Clienteling solution is perfect for this.
  • Contactless payments to avoid any risk to staff and customers.

Many of these digital initiatives can be seen in the Cegid Innovation Store :


Next-gen workforces are set to drive change. A whole new range of skills are going to be required to assimilate the pivoted demands of a largely digitally driven marketplace.

  • Retraining store associates is vital as they are now personal shoppers, social media managers and content creators.
  • Retailers will need to get staffing levels right – fewer shifts and shorter hours.
  • Stores may have to stagger opening hours or shift patterns and breaks, any alteration that can reduce the number of staff in any one place at any one time will help.
  • There will be a skills gap, as the increased need for digital skills rise, and the need for shop floor selling decreases, as many stores close through consolidation. Selling in-person will be part of a multi-layered marketing effort to reach consumers.
  • Emotional Intelligence will be a highly sought-after soft skill. The ability to learn, process, and reflect on not just our own internal experience, but the experience of others, will allow a brand to evolve and meet the future head on. Agility is a valuable skill not on just an individual level, but on a board level also.
  • Offline has been overtaken by online and shop floor teams need to be supporting the digital branding message


Less is more, now is the time to streamline and simplify the shopping experience. Luxury brands have been embracing simplicity for years and will continue to do it well. This now needs to be taken even further.

  • Reduced / extended opening hours. Either approach can control the volume of footfall and meet the staffing capacity restrictions.
  • Out of hours shop floor restock to ensure a clear flow of pathways, reducing boxes and stationary staff causing blockages.
  • Simplify the product offering in store. Consider streamlining to minimise the contact points. Perhaps working towards having only a capsule collection available, lines that can then be ordered from a warehouse or another store on a next day delivery basis.
  • Where possible keep doors open, to reduce high traffic touchpoints like entry and exit doors.
  • Managers can switch from reviewing year on year on figures to week on week. Data and analysis starts from now. Last year is incomparable. Focus on comparisons with other retailers in your area.
  • Area managers can get photo snapshots while travel restrictions remain in place, for merchandising observations and to support stores remotely via video calls.
  • Some luxury brands are shipping direct from stores using a premium delivery service like Addison Lee, others are setting up luxury drive thru’s for a click and collect service with extra styling.

Society’s reliance on e-commerce is now complete. Convenience, speed, cleanliness, health, trust and community are all keywords that will become the future foundations upon which retailing rebuilds.

Read the latest ebook on retail trends: Retail The New Way.


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