The new normal will look a lot like the old normal
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
I’m older than dirt, so I’ve been through a long list of “new normals” and “paradigm shifts” in my lifetime: the widespread use of DDT, Elvis, ISIS, heart transplants, walking on the moon, efficient consumer response, category management, Big Data … You get the idea.
I’m not saying that nothing has changed or will change because of our pandemic experience. But assuming scientists (and not politicians) are allowed to develop inoculations and we don’t all die in the meantime, I expect things to return mostly to “the old normal.” For better or worse, it pretty much always has.
The “new normal,” for those who insist on calling it that, will see some moderate changes. I don’t expect they’ll be permanent. As George Harrison famously cribbed from the Tao Te Ching, “All things pass, A sunrise does not last all morning … A cloudburst does not last all day.”
Here are three changes triggered by our pandemic:
- We’re getting to know our trading partners better, on a personal level. When I surveyed our readership last month, this was a recurring theme. People are less likely to argue, and more likely to work together toward a common solution. And they’re more likely to learn about each other’s families, hopes and dreams.
- We’re seeing the upside and the downside of home delivery and click & collect. Before the pandemic, it was full speed ahead on home delivery and grabbing market share at all costs. Those crunching the numbers and working through complex issues know that “all costs” need limits.
- We’re valuing our “essential workers” more, whether in-store, in processing plants or within the logistics sector. Without these folks, we’re screwed. For the first time, we are recognizing this, although it’s taken strikes and job actions to get our attention. These folks need more than pats on the back (from a safe distance) and “thoughts and prayers.” They need respect and better wages and benefits. In my book, they’re a helluva lot more vital than your average investment banker.
The first two of these things will have a somewhat significant and lasting impact. I have my doubts about the third.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What changes do you expect under the “new normal” of retail operations at food retailers? What change do you hope COVID-19 brings operationally to food grocery?