Ascena Retail Group, parent company of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Catherines women’s apparel brands, filed bankruptcy yesterday. It said that it would close at least 877 (or nearly a third) of its 2,800 stores. This follows years of declining sales and increasing debt. Dressbarn was founded in 1962 and is the country’s largest seller of women’s clothes. Ascena will close all 264 Catherines shops and sell the plus-size clothing brand as well as its website to City Chic Collective, an Australian company. It will also close more than 600 Justice shops, which cater to pre-teen girls, as well as Lou & Grey, Loft, Lane Bryant and Ann Taylor stores.
Total Retail’s Turn: The number of companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection is one of the most obvious signs of the difficulties that retailers have faced in the first half 2020. This is especially true since the coronavirus became a pandemic in March. Ascena joins J.C. Penney and J.Crew as well as Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus. It is unclear if any of these businesses, or more generally traditional brick-and mortar retail, will return.
It is most likely in the middle. Some of these businesses will survive bankruptcy, but with smaller physical footprints. But, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to continue operating as normal. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores must evolve in order to be able to serve today’s customers, who increasingly prefer the convenience and safety of shopping online. This goes beyond having a website that is optimized. This means having a supply chain that is able to get inventory to customers’ doorsteps quickly, efficiently. It also means carrying unique merchandise that cannot be found anywhere else. Customers will want to return to buy again. There are many other operational changes. Although it won’t be easy, this is what it takes to succeed.
How retail technology can power post-pandemic innovation
After the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail stores that shoppers will be returning to after the event won’t be as popular. Both associates and customers will need to adapt to new shopping habits that minimize physical touch. Retailers will need to be innovative and experimental in order to increase sales, despite the limitations of shopper capacity. Forward-thinking retailers are looking to new technologies and devices as they reimagine the customer experience after the pandemic.
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Retail’s Great Acceleration
Although many of the retail technologies that are expected to grow have been around for some time, current conditions have made it easier for them to be adopted. Mobile and contactless payments technology may finally be mainstreamed, despite being popular in other countries but taking longer to reach the U.S. 58 percent of the surveyed consumers have used contactless payment technology in the past. They are much more likely to do so now than they were before the outbreak. The majority of retailers will invest in payment and checkout solutions that give customers more control, such as mobile scanning devices. This technology eliminates the need for a physical contact between customer and associate and speeds up checkout and reduces line time.
Managers and associates will have a better understanding of how to maintain store cleanliness with the help of enterprise-class mobile devices. As more stores are focusing on safety and health, standardized disinfection will be a routine practice even after the pandemic. Other technologies such as ultraviolet lights will be more popular than mobile devices to clean and prevent bacteria from spreading. The UV spectrum and sunlight can be used to combat the virus and other airborne pathogens, according to research. Retailers will be more comfortable allowing customers to shop in their stores if they are paying attention to cleanliness.
The Age of Social Distancing: Rethinking Store Design
Stores will need to be able to accommodate social distancing physically by increasing open space, minimising lines, and limiting touchpoints. Shopping, once considered a leisure activity that can be enjoyed at home, will now require planning and preparation. Mobile customer service tools will be more powerful as consumers shop more mission-orientedly. This will influence retailers’ interactive experiences. Retailers will be able to adapt their designs in response to unanticipated future requirements. For example, mobile self-service kiosks can be used to check out and they can adapt to social distancing standards.
Omnichannel Inventory Management: Increasing Efficiency
COVID-19 has led to a significant increase in e-commerce sales for many retailers. This has created a greater need to improve inventory management. Customers will be more loyal to retailers who can deliver convenience and safety through curbside pickup and delivery. To ensure that customers get what they want without delays or substitutions, it is important to manage inventory accurately. Prescriptive analytics can be used by retailers in almost every industry to analyze demand and keep shelves stocked. This will also help avoid supply chain problems. Sensing and automation solutions are able to provide more real-time data, as well as lower labor costs for accurate inventory levels.
We are looking forward to a new shopping experience
Retailers have realized the importance of flexibility in future-proofing their business, even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s impossible to predict which consumer behavior will be around in the future and which will change due to the global pandemic. Individual retailers will instead be able identify their unique opportunities to grow in a way that suits them. Although the future of retail might not look as we imagined, retailers can use technology to create new shopping experiences.