Retail Pivots: 5 Ways that Stores Have Adapted to the Changing Retail Landscape

If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it’s the importance of being agile and flexible. The market and landscape on which your business operates can change practically overnight, and if you’re unable to adapt, your bottom line will take a serious hit. 

We’ve seen this happen to countless businesses during this pandemic, and it’s heartbreaking, to say the least. 

But on the flip side, we’ve also seen numerous merchants rise up and adapt to the changes really quickly. 

In this post, we’re putting the spotlight on companies that have successfully pivoted their businesses in response to COVID-19.

Check them out below.

Repositioning products to make them more relevant

Merchants such as iHeartRaves, an ecommerce site that sells fashion items for music festival attendees, are changing up their marketing strategies to make their products relevant to the current needs of our customers. 

“Our eCommerce store is in a very challenging position because we sell fashion items to attendees of music festivals. These events are being canceled or postponed all around the country and even throughout the world as the Coronavirus spreads,” shares Brian Lim, CEO of iHeartRaves.

According to Brian, one of the things they’re doing to respond to the changes is move away from marketing their products as festival clothing, and instead positioning them as lingerie or loungewear.

iHeartRaves launched a new collection called “Cute and Cozy”, which consists of leggings, mesh crop tops, short, and other items that can be worn at home.

Shifting supplier strategies

If COVID-19 has affected your vendors and suppliers, you can use this as a chance to pivot your supplier strategies. 

Ashely Metoyer, the owner of women’s fashion store Creole Couture Boutique says that this is something that she had to do because her suppliers pre-pandemic were overseas.

“Before the coronavirus, I was able to get very unique products from other countries that were in line with my brand. I immediately realized that had to change. As I needed to know exactly who would be handling my products and if they were following the precautions and guidelines to protect my customers.”

“The first thing I did is found a US partner who could allow me to completely get all inventory from one local source. This, in turn, allowed me to offer free shipping to the USA and all its territories. This has also increased our shipping times whereas outsourcing it could take anywhere from 10-21 days to get a product to a customer. Now our local customers get their packages within 3-4 days.”

Ashely admits that while these changes resulted in higher payouts to her partners, she’s also seen a boost in sales and reviews. 

“I feel confident in the products I sell, that they will be the right size, color as shown in the image, and were made with COVID-19 guidelines in place. I am happy with the changes we have made and will continue this business model in the future.”

Creating new products

If you have the resources to do so, consider creating a brand new product that you can sell during this period. 

iHeartRaves implemented this by designing and selling face masks. 

“We’ve started designing face masks and for each mask that is purchased, we will be donating one non-printed face mask to nonprofits supporting those on the front lines. We are receiving thousands of orders and are excited to help anyone we can! In fact, we just donated 10,000 masks to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center – San Pedro last week,” says Brian. 

He adds that they’re planning to continue selling face masks even when the pandemic is over. “These pivots can turn into permanent revenue streams. Even when COVID-19 is gone, our masks will still be purchased and used by festival-goers to protect their faces from dirt, dust, wind, and sun while staying fashionable at the same time.” 

Another great example of a business that’s using this period to craft new product offerings is the publishing company M Com Publishing.

Michele Smith, M Com Publishing’s CEO co-wrote a book with her 12-year old son, titled The Quarantine Cookbook.

“I pivoted my small publishing business, by creating a project that is timely, newsworthy and helps others. The idea stemmed from Facebook posts from parents asking about what to do with their kiddos in home isolation and my Aunt Pam saying, ‘You own a publishing company and you should do this.’” 

“As a result, we created a cookbook that keeps budget in mind, food availability in stores and fun for the whole family in the kitchen.”

Doing virtual product demos

When people can’t come to your store to view your products, the best thing you can do is to take product-viewing to your customers. 

That’s the strategy of Canadian Home Leisure, a retail store that sells hot tubs, patio furniture, barbeques, and billiards supplies did.

“Rather than shut down completely, we’ve offered virtual presentations on items that people have questions about,” says Kyle Sawyer, the owner of Canadian Home Leisure.

“All in all the lockdown has hit our business pretty hard. By making ourselves available on the phone, offering virtual presentations and deliveries we’ve managed to generate a stream of income that otherwise would never have existed had we not made those changes.”

Check out one of their presentations in action below: 

Focusing on growing the brand’s customer base instead of immediate sales

Some merchants have limited sales opportunities. If your business falls into this group, then you should use this time to grow your subscriber or prospect list, so you can have a solid base to work from when you reopen your business. 

Brett Downes, the founder of HARO Helpers, talks about how one of his salon clients is doing just that.

“She has filmed a basic video on how to cut your hair yourself and we put a banner ad on their website and Facebook saying it can be downloaded or made accessible to people who subscribe to their email or newsletter. It clearly states it is free for their current customers. This will really help them build up a stack of email addresses from potential customers to hit up and market to once the lockdown loosens up.” 

Final words

While lessons around being nimble and flexible have been mentioned in many business-centric presentations and articles in the past, advice doesn’t always sink in until you absolutely have to implement it. And for many retailers, this pandemic did the trick. 

If you’ve already pivoted your business, that’s great. If you’re still in the process of doing so, hopefully, the example above inspire your efforts. 

Good luck!

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.