Yes, Daylight Savings began a couple weeks ago. But it's not just the time on the clocks that changed; the times themselves have substantially changed.
Followers of The ROI has heard us assert many times that "Retail is a mirror of society." As we reflect on the first quarter of 2022, we are struck by how much has changed in just those three months. And retailers must adapt – yes, again! – to this rapidly changing environment.
Think about it. Consider the assumptions you made just a few months ago, in late December and early January about 2022.
- The Omicron variant was surging, Canada was re-instating border-crossing restrictions, protests on mask mandates were beginning, and supply chain issues were still top of mind. Economists, politicians and pundits were talking about inflation; the stock market fell in anticipation of interest rate increases. Unemployment was down, wages were increasing, shoppers were spending.
And then, an international crisis intervened, with Russia's February invasion of Ukraine. The world's attention shifted to that crisis, and the global economic sands shifted...once again.
- Wide-ranging economic sanctions were imposed on Russia by the Western alliance. Fuel prices increased, with ripple effects on other prices (airlines, groceries, etc.) Millions of refugees from Ukraine are being displaced. Inflation persists, and consumers began to show some price resistance.
Mentally, it is hard to escape the impact, because the press, the TV, the internet is swamping all of us with the grim reality of this war in Ukraine. So sad.
The first quarter is now behind us. The question is, how do we best manage the second, third and fourth quarters of 2022?
This may sound like"old school" advice, but don't dismiss it: The best way to see that "retailing is a mirror of society" is up close and personal. Right now, we believe that it is more critical for all senior management of retail operations to spend time on the selling floor. Listening, not talking.
- What's the first thing Howard Schultz did when he returned as CEO of Starbucks? Go sit with the baristas!
So, now's the time. Get up close and personal. Be on the floor. Talk to customers and to your staff. Find out in real time, rather than waiting for reports after the fact.
- Are your customers willing and able to spend as you anticipated?
- Are your suppliers able to deliver on time?
- Have some of your customers left your area, because of new "work from home" opportunities (and preferences)?
- Are there newcomers to your market area who have left more expensive cities?
- Should your merchandise mix be adjusted to better match this changing customer mix?
- How are you coming with "seamlessly" incorporating e-commerce into your brick-and-mortar operation?
Be determined, and stay flexible.