Retailers vs The Wrath of COVID-19 And What Follows Next

Retail stores have encountered themselves unexpectedly trying to overcome the ongoing sale losses versus past years numbers. The COVID-19 pandemic has drive retailers out of their hope boat, pushing the industry to think outside of the box if they have any plans to survive. Legendary department stores have weakened within the past few years resulting in massive store-closing lists. This quarantine detonated and shaped the future of how we are shopping, pushing us to be more conscious of our expending, focusing on buying necessity items rather than what is in trend. We are witness of the extensive fall of American staple department stores such as JCPenny, Sears, and fashion’s beloved, Barneys New York. There are many speculations and rumors as to which stores might be losing the survival strategy plan, but who is next to fall, and who will rise?  

There already plans and conversations about reducing multiple department stores across the US since the majority of them are struggling to keep up with previous quarter sales. Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy last Thursday, reassuring this is just a plan to significantly reduce debt and the upkeep of strong long-term growth. Neiman Marcus is the parent company of Bergdorf and Goodman, Last Call, and MYTHERESA.com, which was left alone, surviving the bankruptcy case. J.Crew also declared for bankruptcy on Monday that is -also- the parent company of Madewell. Madewell is ready to split from J. Crew and has plans to go public, meet with investors, and add themselves to NYSE or NASDAQ under the potential name, Madewell Group. 

Sears is saying farewell to the industry permanently closing its remaining stores as they are unable to survive the devastation brought with the pandemic. Sears plans on keeping some K-Mart stores operating strategically, as they provide groceries and count with a pharmaceutical department. Lord and Taylor, Gap Inc., the parent company of Banana Republic and Old Navy, and GNC Holdings are considering joining the list of filing for bankruptcy. Furthermore, Gap Inc. publicly stated they were unable to pay its stores rents, leaving to the uncertain if they would be able to operate once the industry starts to operate after the quarantine has lifted. Edcon, a know South African retailer is struggling to keep itself standing still, forced to file for business rescue. Brands like True Religion and MQ -a Swedish retail chain- also filed for bankruptcy on April 16. Nordstrom fell victim of the pandemic, closing permanently 16 full-line stores. Whether filing for bankruptcy is a safety net for some retailers, for others, is just the beginning of the rough path of the unknown. 

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Which are the crucial post-quarantine steps for retailers to endure the experienced losses?

It is all about adapting, planning, strategizing, and keeping it real. Many brands are going to step the foot forward, closing under-performing stores, and even shutting down sister brands completely. Sales are more likely to be through the roof to -at least- recover the investment made in all the merchandise stuck in all temporarily closed stores right now. Buying the right pieces and quantities should be the top priority for buyers, prolonging every single collection life’s in-store, furthering themselves from the fast-fashion culture. Fast fashion, is struggling to stay alive in the industry. Following more sustainable and long-lasting collections, could ease the losses of buying pieces that will go straight to the sale area.

Recognizing and encouraging retail workers should be the one-big-focus to keep up with business and customer satisfaction. Consumers are -now- used to making their purchase online, skipping lines, and preventing the ongoing fear of getting infected. Happy employees often maintain an impeccable record of returning customers, the crucial key to compete against online purchases once retailers open their doors. There are new rules to be implemented as well, including an continuing, but slightly less strict social distance. Ensuring your customers and employees their safety has become the golden rule of the era. 

Could this be the moment to raise more awareness about sustainability and the end of animal cruelty?

Brands and fashion houses like Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood, Victoria Beckham, Topshop, banned exotic skins circa 2018, including Brooks Brothers, who announced their ban earlier this week. These are small steps pushing the industry forward to less animal cruelty, illegal exotic animal farms, and a more sustainable lifestyle. Hermès and Tom Ford still producing exotic animal products skin and show no signs of slowing down.

In terms of sustainability, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and the pollution of rivers and soil. Ethical and sustainable brands are the up-and-coming saviors and redeemers of the pollution footprint left by the hunger of fast fashion. Within these categories, we have brands such as Pact, Reformation, Everlane, Boden, Able, Tradlands, Outerknown, Kotn, Outdoor Voices, Thought Clothing, Sézane, Petite Studio, among others, that are fighting for a more balanced future.

It is hard to predict what will happen next with the fashion industry. There are expected more stores to permanently close their doors, an increase on laid-offs, brand shrinking, and the renaissance of more conscious brands. The good always walks behind the back, only time will tell what is next for the future of fashion.