Written by: Dennis Host, VP of Marketing, Coborn’s
Certainly, 2020 will go down in history as one of the most memorable, bizarre, surreal times in history. Compared to several other pandemics that have spread worldwide, if nothing else, history does tell us that this, too, shall pass. We’ll recover and move on, but likely in very different ways. The world will be different. Major events will be different. Restaurants and bars will be different. Retailing will be different, with online shopping escalating even more than it had been. Interactions with our customers will be different. Trust will be a core value for shoppers as they choose where to go and which businesses to venture into. Cleanliness will be a core value for grocery operators as a means of building trust. The world will be notably different, indeed.
So much has changed in the last two months, it’s mind-boggling. We have certainly learned many lessons, adapted, and adopted new procedures, of which many will likely stay in place for the foreseeable future. But business will continue. Our economy requires it. People need to work, feel valued, make a living, and contribute to society. How quickly that comes back is anyone’s guess at this point. I’m optimistic…cautiously optimistic that the new normal will be one where business can still thrive.
The following are among the many things we’ve learned as we pivoted to this new normal and adapted over the last two months:
How quickly things change. Where before, grocery stores may have struggled a bit with being relevant, we’re now essential.:
Where Center Store was once passé, it’s now a go-to destination. Where fresh was growing and expanding, services in those areas have either shut down completely or significantly limited to ensure safety. We’re now figuring out how to re-open those areas.
Where we struggled to grow sales and worked hard to be relevant and more personalized, we’re now trying to figure out how to stay in-stock and slow some of the hoardings.
Extended hours of service have been exchanged for “close early and open later.” Customers appreciated that and adapted.
Counting out of stocks has turned into “what can we keep in stock,” and how do we keep our shelves filled.
Variety has turned into “just sell what’s essential” and SKU rationalization.
Bath tissue went from an everyday commodity to a prized possession.
Writing a hotter weekly ad turned into no ad at all for weeks in a row. And migrating from print to digital may come sooner than we expected it would.
Reusable bags went from trendy to scary.
Plexiglass shields between the cashier and guests are a new, expected safety measure.
The challenge of recruiting quality employees who would work in a grocery store career has turned into hiring thousands of temporary workers to help us stay ahead.
Online shopping has become a new norm as many new customers navigate their way from bricks and mortar to the trust of online, despite learning curves and technology challenges.
The grocery industry went from being somewhat of an afterthought to community heroes almost overnight.
More than anything, where we may have tended to get in our own way and were slow to adapt and adopt and getting things done quickly, we’ve proven that we can be nimble and quick, responsive, and innovative, faster than we ever have been.
It’s been a long few months, and we’re only in maybe the second inning. We’ll continue to respond and adjust with the safety and wellbeing of our employees and our guests as our top priority.