And this may prove to be what really defines the New Normal for retailers.
The customary peaks of retail spending have been flattened.
- It started when the typical spring time boosts to sales, especially for weddings and graduations, became valleys instead. And deep ones at that.
- Next to be impacted was the back-to-school season, where spending was reduced and redirected as more students were "learning from home." Again, no spikes; no highs and lows. Just a moderate, extended uptick.
- And now, nearly 3 weeks before Halloween, we are at the outset of Holiday spending. Instead of happening in a six-week time frame, it is being spread over three months!
Meanwhile, on a daily level, few people are on the same schedules and routines as before the pandemics arrived. This has contributed to the sense of unease, of uncertainty, the "Every day is a Wednesday" feeling.
What has this meant for retailers? As year-end approaches, what had been a sprint to the finish has become more of a marathon. And in this marathon, in 2020, many participants are walking rather than running.
- In retail, when "seasons" were 3, 4, 5 or 6 weeks in duration, they each had a distinct beginning, middle, and an end. And everybody in retailing knew it!
- Now, with this flattening phenomenon, seasons are murky. When will the customers want the season to begin? When is the middle of it? And for Pete's sake, when does it end??
- How do we manage inventory NOW?
Yes, this New Normal will be defined by a new pace, a new sense of timing, new routines, new Retail Rhythms. The whole notion of what constitutes "retail time" and retail seasons has changed.
We don't know yet what it will all mean. But we do know there is no going back to how things used to be, no turning back of the clock.
Emerging from 2020 into these new Retail Rhythms will be exceedingly challenging for retailers.
But as always, the greatest asset available is "lead time." That's why we're calling your attention to it now.
Amidst this flattening of seasons, how will you define your new Retail Rhythms?