Mall closed sign coronavirus

As states eye a gradual lifting of “stay at home” mandates, some retailers are planning to reopen stores. But Jane Hali, the principle of Jane Hali & Associates, said in her most-recent U.S. consumer outlook report that retail is not going to be the same in a post-COVID-19 world.

Hali expects some department stores to remain off-line as online sales continue to grow. The pandemic has also reinvigorated old trends such as DIY, but with a wellness and beauty twist. And there’s also new behavioral-inspired categories emerging such as “home-leisure.”

With department stores, Hali said expects the “vast majority of C-mall anchors will not reopen and probably a sizable percentage of B mall anchors as well. Unless the landlord has a redevelopment plan ready to go when the box goes vacant, the department stores will continue to be liable under the lease unless/until they file for bankruptcy.”

With e-commerce, Hali said “digital was already a growth vehicle, now it is the only way to generate sales with stores closed.”

“We expect consumers to continue on a larger scale to use various forms of digital post-COVID-19 as they shop and interact with others,” Hali said, adding that the firm envisions “a 50/50 percent split between brick-and-mortar and e-com in the future, it might now be closer than we think post-COVID-19.”

“We believe a lot of people are going to be more hesitant to go into stores, specifically malls or more closed areas, until a vaccine comes out,” Hali said. “E-commerce will proliferate for many reasons one of them being safety.” This shift will require retailers to up their e-commerce game as well as apps and social media shopping, Hali said adding that technology investments will be needed — especially in AI.

With Do-It-Yourself, at-home hair color and skin care, as well as nail care, will continue to be a prominent trend. DIY home improvement will also take center stage.

“During the lockdown, consumers have not been keen on having workman in their homes,” she said. “Customers are putting together their own furniture buys. Triple-digit sales increases have been reported of water filtration devices and replacement filters. Double-dollar sales increases of handheld specialty cleaning appliances and air purifier sales have also been reported compared to the same period last year. Consumers are focused on a healthier living environment now.”

Dovetailing with these trends is the emergence of “home-leisure,” which Hali said “is becoming a new term as people work and stay at home.”

“While it has an overlap with ath-leisure, home-leisure is comfort lounging outfits for the home,” Hali said adding that she sees “this as an opportunity within loungewear and sleepwear.”

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