3 Ideas to Build Better Retail Relationships

In retail, people make the world go around. They are the key ingredients that determine if a business succeeds or fails. The people involved in a small business’s day-to-day functions primarily consist of owners, employees, suppliers, and customers. When extraordinary disruptions occur, there is a ripple effect throughout the supply chain. COVID-19 is a tsunami that puts everyone’s health and safety at risk. The virus has changed employees’ roles, causing a systemic shift in our culture, and driven people to seek comfort by working on home projects.

During the Great Recession of 2008-2009, sales in the home improvement industry plunged, resulting in double-digit losses. The downward spiral continued for three more years. Fortunately, there was a far different economic outcome for the industry in 2020 when Covid-19 hit. Although spring sales got off to a slow start due to the stay-at-home mandate, sales continued to climb and eventually rose 8.7 percent by the end of the year. The ability to remain open due to being essential businesses also played a role in the results. While this was great for business, staying open was also stressful since protecting employees and customers became a priority.

1. Help Your Staff Manage Stress
Although e-commerce sales have skyrocketed, 80 percent of retail sales still take place in physical stores. Additionally, many products required for home improvement projects are not sold online and require customers to visit a physical store to make the purchase. A knowledgeable staff is a big advantage in a competitive market. “The one engagement a customer has with the retail staff continues to be the largest driver of overall satisfaction with home improvement retailers, “says Christina Cooley, director of @home at J.D. Power. “Now, more than ever, customers are looking for the guidance they need—but they’re also looking to get in and out quickly. When customers receive speedy, knowledgeable, and friendly service, they are more likely to return and recommend the retailer.”   

Employees’ responsibilities have expanded because of the pandemic. Many have been trained in conflict prevention and are required to follow the CDC guidelines for safe health practices. These changing dynamics have increased the level of stress for teams that place a high value on meeting their customers’ needs by providing good service. To address the issue, business owners should provide their staff with flexible options that promote wellness.

2. Be Socially Responsible
One of the topics of discussion at the recent NRF 2021 conference was social responsibility and sustainability. Several of the participants focused on the importance of aligning corporate values with policies that promote equality, equity, and diversity. The effort is being driven by consumers who use their buying power to reward retailers whose values align with theirs. Being socially responsible and transparent when conducting business can also increase the bottom line by attracting investors.

Abigail Kammerzell, H&M U.S. sustainability manager, says, “Retail’s responsibility in being a values-led industry that improves society and communities where it operates is key to recovery from the pandemic.”

3. Understand What Customers Need
What customers want is evolving. Some people feel they can no longer control many things that affect their lives. They want to use their time wisely and regain the sense of comfort they’ve lost. It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to their life before the pandemic as the good old days. Feeling nostalgic has led them to buy products that remind them of childhood or revisit experiences that helped them cope in difficult times. Going to the neighborhood hardware store or home center can help get fresh ideas about a project or see a familiar face. “It will be important for retailers to produce elements of nostalgia as they envision the future of their business and the store of the future, which must not only enhance shopping experiences but also promote safety,” says Andrea Bell, WGSN director of insight.

The Bottom Line
People are making home a priority and being more mindful of their health and mental well-being.They want life to return to normal and to put the pandemic behind them. Completing projects without professional help builds confidence and lets the person control the outcome. Here are a few reasons why home improvement sales are projected to be strong until 2025.

  • Low-interest rates fuel demand for housing
  • Working from home becomes a new norm
  • Availability of Covid-19 vaccines
  • Interest rates will remain low
  • New administration proposes 3rd stimulus package

Hopefully, in a few months, our society can begin to heal from the losses we have experienced due to the pandemic. The only option is to be resilient and continue to move forward.

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