Navigating the New ‘Abnormal Normal’

John Lenihan

And just like that, the goal posts have shifted again. Just as retailers were getting their heads around ‘experiential’ retail, social responsibility and eCommerce along comes a global pandemic. There is nothing like an immediate shutdown to force a rethink of how, why and where you are operating.

How are retailers meant to respond to this? There are the obvious immediate challenges of operating under strict social distancing parameters, and associated apprehensive behavioural traits. However, looking further ahead, retailers need to be modelling the concurrent changes in the landscape and how they can strategically respond. Sector closures, unemployment, low migration, reduced spending, lower costs and rents are just a number of the challenges that the sector faces. Although this appears gloomy, being efficient, being smart and being targeted is the key to having a successful strategy in the “new abnormal normal”.

Lotto, Foodstuffs, AMI, Westpac, Placemakers, Farro and Bike Barn are just a few examples of retailers whom we have partnered with to create location and market strategies.  By using a number of different data sets to map and model markets, we are able to reveal insights and analysis with a broader view than most research would offer. We are often forecasting out 5 years for clients, and integrate commentary and opinion from our property and realty teams. Why? Because there is no point in ‘desktop’ recommendations that can’t be achieved in the real world of rents, lease terms and available spaces. This is where the ‘science and strategy’ are brought together to create pragmatic solutions.

‘Disconnections’ are often identified through this process, which provides opportunity and valuable strategic direction. Eg, too much floor space in the wrong locations, relative to customer spend and potential market share. Or, revealing locations which cannibalise one another when there are alternative opportunities to grow market share in untapped catchments. Decisions can often be made without understanding the playing field, and whilst these can often be concealed during times of strong economic growth, they are quick to reveal themselves when the tide goes out.

Looking ahead and understanding the landscape, your landscape, is critical for success in a challenging environment. Those that can respond quickly and identify a pathway forward are much more likely to succeed than those that are idle and watch those around them.  Knowledge is power, and more so than ever with the new abnormal normal.

Our thoughts and gratitude have been with our essential service partners over the last 5 weeks, particularly those within healthcare.

We wanted to share a concept that we have been working on for the Waikato DHB, a refurbishment of their communal café – and am sure the staff would be looking forward to what has been put forward.

The dated top floor environment had struggled to accommodate the influx of people across peek periods, and it also forced everyone through the same prescribed journey.  The new layout offers customers options which don’t conflict with other users. It also acknowledges staff whom want to bring in their own meals and prepare these on site. The refreshed material palette is also a welcome change within the sterile environment. Enjoy the sneak peek flythrough.

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