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By Black Creek Group
The potential demise of retail has been a topic of discussion ever since the Sears catalog took aim at brick-and-mortar stores in the 1890s. One hundred years later, e-commerce came along with another business model that challenged traditional retail. But we have never seen anything with the same impact—sudden, rapid and harsh—on the sector as COVID-19. That said, while COVID-19 impacted the sector swiftly, we don't believe it has materially changed the longer-term trajectory of retail. Instead, it has simply accelerated the evolution of the industry. While the pandemic has had widely divergent effects across the different retail sub-sectors, overall retailers that have continued to adapt and innovate are proving most resilient.
Essential vs. Essential Retail
Over the course of the pandemic, there has been an obvious bifurcation between essential and non-essential retail. While it is up to individual cities and states to define what businesses fall into each category, those deemed non-essential—apparel retailers, salons, gyms, and movie theaters, for example—were temporarily shut down across much of the U.S. due to COVID-19. On the other hand, businesses believed to be essential to daily life, including grocers, home improvement stores, pharmacies, banks and gas stations, were allowed to remain open.
Yet even within these two broad categories, we have witnessed different trends emerge as retailers learn to adapt in order to stay resilient. It is through these emerging trends that we can see how the pandemic may transform, rather than destroy retail. Read more.