Trends That Will Redefine The Retail Space Post COVID-19
- Ziba Beauty
We got a chance to sit down with the CEO of Ziba Beauty and chat about the future of retail post COVID-19. As an industry leader with decades of experience in Souther California retail, we were curious to see what she thinks the retail landscape will look like after the Coronavirus. Here’s what she had to say.
Hi Sumita, you own and manage 14 retail locations for threading and waxing services in California….what have you done to protect employees and customers from COVID-19?
We are mostly a mall-based brand and service over 40,000 clients per month. We were one of the first retailers in most of our mall locations that temporarily shut down the business. We made that decision on March 13th.
It was not an easy decision to make, and yet it was a no brainer for us that the safety of our team, our clients, and our community was a more significant part of our social responsibility. One week later, all major malls shut down, and a few days later, our state governor shut down all non-essential businesses.
How should small and medium retail businesses susceptible to this economic crisis handle things and survive financially?
We had to lay off our team to allow them to take advantage of unemployment benefits during the temporary shut down. We have stopped paying rent beginning in April and will be negotiating with our landlords for rent relief. Our banks have agreed to defer our loans. We have also shut down or frozen all utilities until we reopen for business.
We are looking at what options we have for survival. We are trying to leverage our relationships with our clients to offer them products to purchase from us instead of giants like Amazon. We qualify for the PPP loans through the COVID-19 CARES Act. Loans are calculated based on 2019 payroll, divided by 12, getting the average wages paid by the small business per month and then granting a forgivable loan for 2.5 months’ worth.
The loan will be forgiven if we rehire and retain 100% of our team for eight weeks post receiving the loan. These are some options we are looking into to navigate this crisis and survive financially.
What are some other ways retail businesses are trying to survive this crisis?
Now is the time to reshape, reform, and build partnerships. It’s a time to re-examine our businesses; perhaps by adding products and services you would never have offered in the past.
At Ziba Beauty, we are preparing to make available essential products and supplies that we were using in our day-to-day business operations. By doing so, we are staying afloat and also providing essentials that our clients are currently searching for. We are re-examining our entire operations and removing anything that is not essential to the survival of our business.
What can we learn from retailers in Asia, where they are a few weeks ahead of us in this crisis?
Touch services such as beauty, nail, and hair salons will be the last to regain business at 100%. Timing will be essential. If we reopen too soon, a resurgence will make us shut down again. We can learn that there is power in numbers.
Collective bargaining and strength are vital in negotiating relief from our landlords and our vendors. There was never a more critical time than now to come together with other small businesses to align our efforts and brands to help each other survive. We need to share resources, spaces, clients, products, and whatever is possible!
How do you think this will change the retail industry in 2020? Will all of the foot traffic just come back all at once?
The retail landscape has changed forever. We will not easily forget how this pandemic took hold of how we work and live. It will stay in our minds and will have a profound impact on the way we do business moving forward. The distinction between essential and non-essential services has been made evident.
A new normal may include wearing face masks and increased use in sanitizers and fever monitors. The retailers that have always embedded sanitation and cleanliness in their brand DNA and processes will stand out and be rewarded for it. My prediction is that post-Coronavirus, retail will dominate online, primarily in essential products.
The foot traffic will return slowly, once health concerns are stabilized. But retail services will only survive if their vendor partners support their return. Otherwise, we might see many businesses shut down.
What trends do you see in the long term with retail businesses like yours?
The new trends will be set by how we adapt our businesses for long-term shifts. For example, I see services moving from walk-in to appointment-only. That change will allow us to control the number of people in our business spaces at any given time. I also foresee changing the way customer waiting areas are set-up to minimize unnecessary human contact. I see an increase in services and prices to justify the necessary changes to new business practices. At Ziba Beauty, we are moving clients towards online appointments and payments. Client safety protocols will be a top priority and requirement for survival.
How about larger brands? Will there be a shift towards them if they are better at surviving this?
Even before the crisis, larger brands last year announced a record number of store closures amid bankruptcy filings. A monumental shift for them is inevitable. They have been hit from too many angles and for too long.
I think that smart players will partner with smaller businesses to give their brands in-store exposure. The shift is going to be a blend between the online and brick-and-mortar experience. Retail will experience a surge after a reprieve of social distancing.
It will be like Christmas for three months, or so, for the brands that survive. But, although there are no guarantees, we remain optimistic.
What habits changes do you think, if any, will this COVID-19 have on retail shoppers?
Although we don’t know for sure what businesses will look like after the outbreak subsides, I think sanitation will be at the forefront of best business habits. Brands will start to provide customers with designated areas to wash or sanitize their hands. Delivery, curbside pick up, appointment-only services, and safety protocols will become part of our new business culture post this pandemic.