International Retailer Reactions

COVID-19 has global reaching effects and retailers around the world are reacting and responding differently to changing shopper behaviors and government regulations due to COVID-19.

In Thailand, innovation in self-service is changing the concept of the convenience store. FamilyMart Thailand, the regional arm of Japanese convenience store giant FamilyMart, has opened its first store where beverages, snacks, and convenience foods are sold from vending machines. CEO of Central Food Retail Group Stephen Coum stated that convenience stores need to constantly adapt, and that “the Covid-19 outbreak has prompted us to adapt ourselves and change the way we work.” The ‘container style’ stores can be built quickly in limited space and opened in lockdown areas, which require quick access to food and beverage.

In South Africa, retailer and brand partnerships are opening trade and commerce opportunities that may not have otherwise been considered. For example, Pick n Pay, has partnered with start-up Bottles, an alcohol delivery app. After some re-engineering, Bottles are now able to help fulfill the delivery of essential groceries from over 70 Pick n Pay stores during the country’s lockdown. With regular online delivery services (including Pick n Pay’s own) being overwhelmed, this partnership between otherwise potential competitors is helping solve a critical challenge; getting essentials into customers’ hands in a timely fashion.

While some retailers are fast in developing innovations to meet demands and government mandates, others are struggling. In Europe, many supermarkets aren’t in favor of a significant shift to eCommerce. Swiss supermarket Migros is halting online orders due to their inability to fulfill order volume. In Denmark, the Coop has found its online sales to be a “good expansion” of physical sales but has no plans to transfer any large share of its business online. Although physical European storefronts are slow to transition online, others are burgeoning with growth. In mid-March, Danish online supermarket announced that it had posted a 50% sales rise and planned to hire 200 new staff.

Although reactions greatly differ, grocery retailers globally are grappling with digital growing pains and in-store changes. As the situation progresses, innovations in trade and commerce will continue to emerge, and swift adaptability might be the key differentiator that provides businesses with the most reassurance to be best positioned to grow. Time will tell if the retailers with swifter response times and innovation will ultimately drive long term retail success.

Contributed by: Michael Krog, Senior Strategist, Integer London

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