The Return of Brick-and-Mortar Retail in a Pandemic World

One of the industries that were hit really hard by the pandemic is the retail industry. 2020 saw thousands of brick-and-mortar retail businesses close shop. Some temporarily, others permanently. It has caused hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs and livelihoods. Companies lost millions during the entire lockdown season.

However, the impact wasn’t as evenly spread as most of us think. Certain industries somehow survived, while others experienced growth, such as remote work software and health and fitness.

Retail stores are making a comeback

When physical shops closed down, e-commerce took over and grew exponentially over the past 12 months. We’ve seen it hit all-time highs as people made more online purchases in 2020 compared to any other year.

Business analysts and experts have predicted in recent years how eCommerce will eventually overtake brick-and-mortar shops’ performance. The pandemic sped it up by a few years and we were left with the impression that the days of physical shops are numbered.

However, when the economy started to reopen and business owners learned to adapt to the times, new hope sprung up for brick-and-mortars. Changes in operations were quickly implemented. The workplace was reorganized to adhere to the CDC’s COVID guidelines. Despite physical distancing, shop owners are optimistic about not just surviving but even thriving in the new normal.

Shopping in a digital world

Today, over a year since the pandemic started, brick-and-mortar shops are slowly making a comeback. Even online businesses that thrived during the pandemic have started to build physical shops. Calls for contractors and window installation services have gradually increased over the past few months. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are willing to risk investing in physical shops once again, especially since COVID vaccines have now been made available and vaccination programs are taking place all over the world.

Sure, eCommerce is still king today. But purely online businesses have also seen the value of having a physical store where clients and customers can come in — at a limited capacity, of course — and check out the merchandise they’re interested in. This is one of the main advantages of having a store to walk into. Customers have the chance to inspect an item before making a purchase. This reduces the return and reverse logistics rates which also cut costs for business owners.

What could brick-and-mortars do to thrive?


Since eCommerce is still the top shopping choice for most people today, this doesn’t mean that it’s the end for physical retail shops. Despite the ongoing health crisis and the restrictions it has caused, brick-and-mortar shops can still do well and even thrive, given the right strategies. One simply has to plan for it well and be quick to adapt to the changing pandemic-induced landscape.

Here are a few notable things that could help business owners who wish to put up a physical retail shop:

Handle inventory more effectively

Inventory management will play a huge role in the success or downfall of a physical shop. Shop owners can fully optimize their costs by coming up with a better inventory handling or management system. If brick-and-mortar stores want to be profitable and stay that way, they need to bring down the amount of excess inventory without understocking them. It is quite tricky but if they figure out the acceptable amount they need, it will have a significant impact on their bottom line.

Offer a wider range of products

Shop owners should not just be focused on the here-and-now. They need to have a long-term vision for their business. If they want to put themselves in a better position in the industry in the future, they need to have a wider range of products on hand. According to a shopper survey conducted in 2018, 67.3% of shoppers left the store because they couldn’t find the items they were looking for.

Embrace digitalization

Lastly, physical shop owners should not put all their eggs in one basket. Meaning they should not put all of their time and attention into the physical shop. Diversification is a beautiful thing in business. It opens doors for other income opportunities. As such, those who already have existing online shops should not close them down in favor of the physical store, and vice versa. If one is to truly make it through this season, he or she has to embrace digitalization and take full advantage of it.

With all the uncertainty and changes caused by COVID-19, the future of physical retail shops continue to hang in the balance. It will still depend on how effective the vaccines are, how cooperative the people are with the WHO and CDC’s guidelines, and how business owners plan and strategize for their shops. In the end, business is still about the survival of the fittest. And as long as business owners and entrepreneurs are willing to duke it out with COVID, we haven’t seen the last of brick-and-mortar shops.

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