Has retail adaptation become more about survival than competitive edge?
The latest results from an ongoing survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value show that Americans were more concerned about COVID-19 in July than they were in June and those concerns affect their attitudes about a return to the old normal.
The survey of more than 7,000 adults found that 72 percent in July were more concerned about their own personal health and safety as well as that of their families, up from 68 percent in June. Nearly two-thirds remain concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 hitting later this year, even as the first wave appears far from over.
Health concerns are likely behind the reluctance by many to resume activities such as going out to restaurants. Twenty-seven percent reported that they visited a restaurant in July, up from 21 percent in June.
The percentage of people who expect the economy to return to its pre-pandemic health was only 13 percent last month, down from 16 percent in June.
“Consumers are preparing themselves for more permanent changes in behavior,” said Jesus Mantas, senior managing partner, IBM Services. “These new behaviors define the new preferences that business leaders need to be able to deliver to meet consumers where they are. This is no longer a question of competitive advantage, it’s a matter of business survival.”
The arguments surrounding how the nation should approach the COVID-19 pandemic broadly break down into two camps in today’s politically polarized environment.
The first argues that local, state and federal agencies need to throw everything they have into reducing the spread of the virus and then slowly reopen to avoid a relapse. Proponents acknowledge the associated economic cost of shutting down businesses and say that the government has to step up with financial assistance for those affected until the virus comes under control as a result of a cure or a vaccine.
The second argument offers varying logic as to the why, but the assertion is that the economy needs to reopen now because the cost of the cure cannot be worse than the disease. This approach may mean that things will get worse (people getting sick, being hospitalized and dying) before getting better, but that is a price worth paying.
- IBM Study: Most U.S. Consumers Remain Unsettled About the Economy, Visiting Public Spaces and Returning to the Workplace Amidst COVID-19 – IBM/PRNewswire
- Trump: ‘We can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself’ – The Hill
- Trump says coronavirus will ‘get worse before it gets better’ – The Hill
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has the ability for retailers to adapt to new changes in consumer behavior become more a question of business survival than competitive advantage in the here and now? What do you think it will take for life and retailing to go back to some semblance of the pre-pandemic normal?