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RJIF 2021: Retail in a Post-covid World



RJIF 2021: Retail in a Post-covid World

Covid threw the world in a state of doldrums and cluelessness about the life ahead. The retail industry faced toughest of the times to cater to ever-changing needs of end-consumers. But there definitely were silver linings as the consumer preferences evolved through an unprecedented exposure to omnichannel media. The keynote session by Bijou Kurien, Chairman, Retailers Association of India summed up the evolution of post-pandemic retail.

Across sectors, professionals habituated in 9-5 shifts are dressing down and opting for more casual wear and lounge wear, with high-end bridal apparel facing a dip in the first 6 months and a sudden influx after lockdowns ended. “Lockdowns and work from home spawned trends of dressing down and demand surge in casual, lounge wear. In jewellery, demand dropped due to closure of physical stores and drop in international travel but brand value has become a strong factor in these 18 months,” he said. Business with steady revenue found a new opportunity to invest in real estate as prolonged at-home stay with people increased demand for more space. Services industry with frequent in-person interaction took the blow of social distancing while product sales remained relatively steady. Home nesting improved, domestic tourism increased as people resorted to OTT platforms for 24×7 entertainment.

In jewellery, the initial demand drop happened due to closure of physical stores and decreased international travel. People started preferring national brands to regional ones out of personal choices and need for safer purchases. With brand becoming the most important factor, advertising got channeled en masse digitally as almost every retail brand showcased their in-store catalogue to consumers for faster conversion. Consumers, maintained Kurien, are seeking investment value in gold and transparency and sustainability in diamonds, which have given fillip to LGD brands and encourage the natural diamond industry to work on their sustainability and ethical sourcing initiatives.

With ease of business increasing online, the efficacy of retail stores started getting questioned. This needs retail brands to architect the offerings of physical showrooms in tune with changing consumer needs, he stated. That can happen when retailers think how to buy, design and assort inventory digitally too. Taking cue from the AI advancement of e-commerce tycoons such as Amazon, which has a better understanding of future choices based on past impressions on site, jewellery retail can show curated SKUs to each customer walking in, thus optimizing time spent in-store and increasing conversion ratio. From cursor movements online to customer movements in-store, everything can be tracked with technology while retail brands also enjoy the advantage of the sales executives’ experience.

“Building a resilient business model replete with opportunities for growth and not complaints about the pandemic losses will make the success mantra for jewellery retail in the coming decade,” stated Kurien. Intuitive collaborations and thorough understanding of the customer behavior are the compulsory factors traits to champion on that note, he added.

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