In a world forever altered by COVID-19, retailers are adapting and re-opening as shoppers take to the stores for some long-anticipated retail therapy. Fortunately, the future is bright for business owners who are adopting the “new normal” and for customers who are enjoying a more luxurious shopping experience than ever.
Of course, significant changes were required. Loredana Grama, Nordstrom Pacific Centre store manager says, “We’ve made some updates to the way we serve customers to help keep them and our employees healthy.” For Nordstrom and other retailers this means new measures like reduced hours, increased cleaning, hand-sanitizer stations, signage on the floors to help customers maintain distancing and employees wearing masks.
“We’ve made special designer-branded face masks—Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more—and all customers will receive complimentary hand-painted red-nail gloves to take home”
Vice-president and general manager of Vancouver Downtown Hudson’s Bay, Brahm Kornbluth, emphasizes working to “ensure a shopping experience that is as safe, easy and comfortable as possible.” Along with in-store health protocols, Hudson’s Bay rolled out new shopping services. “We introduced contactless curbside pickup where customers can purchase products [online] and pick up at a store in as little as three hours. We have a live-chat function for customers to speak directly with associates in our stores for support and questions while shopping online,” he says.
Stores that closed abruptly needed to get online and do it quickly. “We just had to launch our e-commerce in any way we could, going with the flow and staying agile. We also needed get creative with continuing our exceptional customer service, offering hand delivery to clients’ homes, sometimes even the same day. It ended up being a fun and unexpected service and we went the extra mile to overachieve for our clients,” says Harriet Guadagnuolo of Blubird.
With strict cleaning and distancing measures in place, it’s also key for customers to enjoy a luxurious experience when venturing out to shop. For Courtney Watkins, owner of Mine & Yours, limited store traffic means “treating it as a styling appointment for one-on-one customer service to maintain an exclusive feel.” Watkins also takes a fun approach to standard protective coverings. “We’ve made special designer-branded face masks—Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more—and all customers will receive complimentary hand-painted red-nail gloves to take home. It’s a way of continuing our luxury branding and offering our customers an elevated shopping experience,” she says.
“We continue to deliver exceptional service, but in a modified way,” Kornbluth says. “Our fashion experts have access to online tools to support virtual shopping including Zoom-based wardrobing and fashion-consultation sessions.”
He adds that customer buying habits have also changed. More than ever, the focus is on quality over quantity. “When people do shop, they may make fewer trips but purchase more per visit. I think we will continue to see people valuing quality in products they choose to purchase, and making more discerning buying decisions.”
“People really care about their dollar and not wasting it. Quality purchases feel safe,” Watkins says. Carey Hulshof, founder of Secret Location, agrees: “People will become more decisive in their purchasing habits.”
Guadagnuolo says, “There’s less traffic, but when people do come in, it’s intentional. With people spending more time at home there’s less need for formal wear. We’re focusing on luxury loungewear and athleisure that makes staying in feel special. Our products are changing with a new lifestyle.”
Hulshof notes that an increase in working from home will see more focus on “the portrait”—the part of you that your Zoom colleagues see. She predicts that this will translate into “a focus on skin care, beauty, tops and jewelry.”
Watkins believes that her customers are making conscious decisions to get out of their sweats. “There’s less opportunity for people to dress up but they still want to wear special pieces. If people are going out, it’s an exciting opportunity to look their best.” Hulshof playfully refers to “revenge shopping,” referring to “those that are excited to get out, socialize, and are making up for lost time.” —Jeanine Gordon