What Can Physical Only Returns Teach Us Post-Lockdown?
Author: Jasmine Waters
If you’ve ventured to any British high street, chances are you’ll be met by a looming multi-storey building fitted with mass stock and blue neon lights. Primark is now a national landmark in UK consumer shopping, a go-to for many for basics at extremely affordable prices. During the pandemic, Primark have had to deal unique circumstances as a physical-only store, prompting the question – can small brands learn anything from Primark’s trials, tribulations and rolled-out measures?
How has Primark navigated lockdown?
According to sources, Primark’s initial waning of consumer demand began in February, although the first signs of COVID-19 impact to products being sources from China started as early as January. Following this, all stores and offices experienced six weeks of full closure, meaning there was absolutely no income for the company pretty much overnight. Despite this, stores have found they can safely re-open in countries like Austria and The Netherlands. All other customer facilities remain closed for the time being, which is proving to be a particular issue with fitting rooms that maintain an extremely high customer demand. Some parts of the business have possibly been badly damaged, such as their suppliers facing many cancellations, putting a questionable strain on their future relationships. However, the fact they are a physical-only store has in part played to their advantage, with no money being owned as a result of all products being paid for immediately. This follows into where the brands have subsequently been able to place strategic emphasis during the lockdown period, with agendas such as sustainability are being able to materialise as a very high priority. Such plans run the risk of becoming out of date before they are even implemented – as their UK stores open from 15th June, what can smaller brands learn from Primark’s successful safety measures?
What other measures are in place?
The forced closures have allowed for Primark to establish patterns in what is now working and resonating as stores begin to re-open. With childrenswear excelling over accessories and suburban stores in greater profits than city tourist spots, their intake of cash has flattened with greater consumer flexibility with time. With this in mind, the company has introduced strict hygiene measures in order to ensure they maintain stability safely. Occupancy limits are in place with additional security to support queuing outside of stores and extra hand sanitising stations throughout the customer journey to maintain safety integrity. Decals and signage are on the floors and windows with entrances to cashpoints flowing as one-way systems. Cleaning has been increased at all customer touchpoints – including shopping basket handles – with supported signage throughout the store. Possibly one of the most important measures introduced is the appropriate PPE protection, extending to screens at till points. Back of house measure include limiting numbers of colleagues in locker rooms, offices and recharge cafes. If small and independent brands can carry as many of these measure out as possible – and learn from Primark’s pitfalls – they can ensure their brand and their customers are safely prepped for the further uncertainty to come.
Photo credit: /www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk