Retailers May Look to China for ‘New Normal’

The country’s “new retail” model could inspire American merchants.

June 05, 2020

BEIJING—U.S. retailers are slowly re-opening, as stay-at-home edicts are eased around the country. As merchants grapple with how to juggle increased cleaning schedules and boost sales and foot traffic, Jing Daily recommends looking to China, with four suggestions based on patterns being adopted by Chinese retailers.
  1. Increase your digital footprint. China’s department store chain Intime recovered quickly from COVID-19 disruptions due to “its robust digital infrastructure and omnichannel capabilities.” The move toward digitalization took place prior to the pandemic, which allowed Intime to nimbly merge online and offline shopping experiences.
  2. Develop a seamless transition from offline to online. Intime also showed how retailers can move offline to online. Western retailers should start with a retail mobile app, which can provide more data on consumer behavior, generate more sales and engagement, as well as provide a platform for more services.
  3. Add more income streams. Department stores and larger discount retailers could pivot to convenience store concepts to capitalize on this trend. In the United States, convenience stores had been outperforming pre-COVID-19 because of added foodservice, among other things. “The value of convenience has never been higher,” Jeff Lenard, NACS spokesman, said at the time.
  4. Think about adding some “retail-tainment.” With any consumer good available online, retailers need to use interaction and engagement to entice shoppers into stores. Today’s modern shoppers are searching less for a shopping trip and more for customer engagement in China, Singapore, Seoul or Dubai.

“In short, American department stores must innovate to stay relevant. At a time when customers are growing increasingly worried about their safety and are fearful about shopping out of the house, they will need an extra push to help them rediscover department stores,” Jing Daily predicted. “Therefore, only retailers that are sensitive to the desires and vulnerabilities of their consumer base will be able to persist in this new, unfamiliar world.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.