It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting over 15 months for.
With vaccination rates reaching an important threshold and restrictions being lifted across the country, it looks like we are finally—mercifully—entering a post-pandemic world.
Are you ready?
Pet retailers have had their mettle tested in previously unimaginable ways for more than a year now, and many (if not most) admirably rose to the occasion. So, no one would blame you for taking a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and maybe even pat yourself—and your staff and vendor partners, of course—on the back for overcoming a seemingly endless stream of challenges.
But keep in mind that a moment is really all you can afford.
Retailing in a post-pandemic environment will inevitably present a host of new challenges to the forefront, and how pet stores handle those challenges over the next several months will have a big impact on their long-term success. With that in mind, there is no time to waste in developing a cogent strategy for adapting to the new realities facing your business.
First and foremost, retailers must be cognizant of how their customers are transitioning back to some sense of normalcy. And will “normal” even look the same as before COVID?
For example, services like home delivery and buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPUS), which were virtually non-existent among neighborhood pet retailers, became hugely popular out of necessity during quarantine. Now that shoppers can move around more freely, it is safe to assume that demand for these services will somewhat decline as people re-embrace the idea of leisurely browsing the aisles of a pet store. However, some pet owners will still value the convenience provided by pet stores’ home delivery/BOPUS options, making them an important part of the business moving forward.
When preparing for the new normal, a retailer’s goal should be to take some of the best practices that you adopted during the pandemic, refine them to suit life after COVID, and then combine them with the competitive strengths that your store(s) had before the country locked down. Whether it’s balancing a great experience in the aisles with the convenience of e-commerce, or exciting customers through a combination of in-store events and digital engagement, the point is that retailers must accept that the effects of the pandemic will be felt long after COVID-19 is relegated to the history books and adjust accordingly.
Their ability to do so will likely decide whether or not their businesses get to write a new chapter or end up as a foot note. PB