Given the growth of e-commerce and the need to socially distance within stores, it makes sense to pull sales forward to spread out holiday demand which is what Amazon and several other retailers have chosen to do. The bad news is that pulling sales forward won't necessarily increase total holiday demand. Although there is a lot of uncertainty and the total "size of the pie" is yet to be seen, a pull ahead approach should help retailers by giving them more time to manage their supply, demand and pricing to make adjustments as needed. This may be a key component that helps some retailers transform an uncertain season into a successful one.
Even if there is a next wave of panic buying, it probably won't be as severe or as sudden as what happened in March. Retailers should be better prepared to mitigate these challenges with better policies (purchase limits, etc.) and inventory strategies. As previously stated in this discussion, understanding top items with the best analytics possible and having the capabilities to quickly monitor trends will also play an important role. Excess demand should be a good thing for retailers -- they just need to take their learnings from earlier this year to build the supply, processes and analytical capabilities to drive strong results moving forward.
From my experience, the reality is that both employees and execs can frequently be responsible for holding back data-driven cultures. The main difference is that the right execs with the right focus, determination and leadership are able to move their organizations in the right direction whereas it is a lot harder to drive change from the bottom. One thing is clear, there will always be resistance to new change and best practices - the simple fact is that a lot of execs got where they are by doing things a certain way for a long period of time and new data best practices might not have been involved in their advancement. Nevertheless, the best leaders (at all levels of the organization) should be persistant in driving a culture of data-informed decision making.
Grocers are in a uniquely beneficial position because they sell essentials that people need to live and because people are still mostly unwilling to dine out. Instead of resting on their laurels, smart retailers are leverage the best analytics available to understand how things have changed in the post-COVID world and making the investments and strategy adjustments to ensure sustainable growth for the future. People will always need to eat -- they will choose to buy their groceries at the retailer who best understands their needs and prices and promotes accordingly.
The whole purpose of retail is to meet consumer demand efficiently and profitably. Focus should be on meeting that demand instead of limiting it. Plans need to be put in place today to ensure the right products are available in the right channels at the right price if another event occurs. Using the best analytics and the wealth of data and insights from COVID should give retailers an edge when planning for the future as will developing partnerships with vendors who have a global perspective on evolving trends/crises.
BJ’s offers consumers an exceptional club experience and has done a great job navigating the new realities of COVID. As with other "essential" businesses and clubs, BJ’s has benefited more than most retailers from changing consumer behavior. How successful they will remain depends on how much they use this unique opportunity to re-invest in their future. Evolving demand requires the right analytics, solutions, processes and governance to ensure that all elements of their strategies are consumer focused, adaptable and able to meet the needs of the post-COVID club market. The decisions and investments made today by BJ’s and other "essential" businesses will determine the winners of tomorrow.