Not so long ago we were talking about how to engage the customer during the in-store experience—how we keep customers in our store longer, since the longer the customer stays, the more likely they are to make a purchase and to buy more quantity.


Unfortunately, that’s all changed in the past few weeks with the arrival of this global pandemic. In this new and strange environment, the customer can no longer linger: It’s “get in, get what you need, and get out.” As shopping habits have dramatically changed in the past few weeks, what can retailers learn from these sudden shifts in public behavior?


Primarily, we have all seen the limits of some of the big-boy supply chains. Did you ever imagine we would have a shortage of toilet paper? As I shopped in mid-March at a major American grocer, I couldn’t help but think about the challenges I faced during my own retail days. In-stocks were always a pain, not only for comp stores but for new ones as well. As I shopped the mostly empty aisles, two things became clear: First, the potato chip industry has a fantastic supply chain, and second, people really don’t like canned beets.


The other huge issue for retailers is the sudden surge in consumer demand for certain products, while other products see significant drops in demand. Retail buyers should take the time to actually walk the stores where safely possible, or undertake a fresh analytical look at how inventories are moving, to understand what consumers like and what items they obviously don’t during this unusual time—and to plan for how these changes may become permanent after the pandemic is over.


Other takeaways are operational: Stocking has been a challenge for some time, but in today’s environment that inefficiency becomes glaring and can seriously damage the consumer’s perception of the brand. Retail leadership should consider these serious problems while working from home without the interruptions of the daily office grind, to transform these issues into opportunities.


Part of our job at Nashville Display is designing and manufacturing retail fixtures for the way consumers are shopping, today and tomorrow. So the fixtures we put in stores are easy to stock, can hold ample inventory, and are specifically designed to catch the attention of that all-too-focused consumer who is now just trying to limit their time in the store. We’re always ready to pivot for our customers when the state of the world shifts, and this time is no different. If your retail operation needs help navigating the coming months, we’re ready to help.