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Here's What Retailers Are Doing to Drum Up Business While Storefronts Are Dark

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Here's What Retailers Are Doing to Drum Up Business While Storefronts Are Dark

7-Eleven constructed its first pop-up store in the Children's Medical Center in Dallas during the coronavirus pandemic. (7-Eleven)

by: Jennifer Waters | CoStar News | May 1, 2020

There’s little question for anyone who shops that the retail industry has been slammed by the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, with government orders forcing landlords to turn the lights off temporarily at most shopping centers and malls.

Nearly every retailer has had to put muscle into its e-commerce site and reckon with new shipping and distribution issues, but with stores closed, some retailers have used innovative ways to keep goods flowing. Here’s a look at some.

Curb Appeal

When states and cities began ordering stay-at-home directives, that didn’t stop consumers from wanting electronics such as big-screen TVs, laptops and freezers.

Best Buy filled the bill by shifting to curbside service for online pickup and on-site ordering on an interim basis. For example, if your phone charger stops working, you can drive to the store’s curb and have an associate run in and get it for you.

The strategy, coupled, of course, with delivery, appears to be working. At a time when many retailers are hardly able to ring up any sales, Best Buy has managed to hold on to about 70% of its typical sales during this time of year, the company said in a recent financial update.

“Domestic online sales are up over 250% and approximately 50% of these sales are from customers choosing to pick up their products at our stores since moving to our curbside service model,” the Richfield, Minnesota-based company reported.

Pop-Ups Expand

Pop-up stores have become a go-to for boutique retailers looking for a quick attention hit and legacy retailers looking for fast promotional space in tight rental markets. But a 7-Eleven pop-up?

The world’s largest convenience store operator did just that at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, answering a call for help from one of the largest pediatric healthcare providers in the nation.

The “store,” nestled in Moore Auditorium typically used for large meetings and gatherings, carries fresh food, take-home meals and beverages for healthcare workers and patient families as well groceries and personal-care products.

Yes, you can pick up toilet paper there as well as laundry detergent, dairy products and even phone chargers. And in this no-touch time of life, hospital staff can use their employee badges to pay for merchandise. There’s also typical credit and debit checkout, of course.

“When Children’s Health asked us to provide their team members convenient access to essentials during this unprecedented time, our team rose to meet the challenge; opening this first-of-its-kind store in less than two weeks,” Joe DePinto, 7-Eleven’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We are so proud to serve those on the front line of this pandemic.”

Stores Become Warehouses

Bed Bath & Beyond was in the midst of a turnaround strategy when the coronavirus outbreak forced it to shut its roughly 1,500 stores — a position more than a few retailers were in earlier this year.

While in-store sales plummeted, online sales surged 90%, creating a new problem for the Union, New Jersey-based home goods company: Where to fulfill those orders? The answer was use what’s available, and that meant plenty of closed brick-and-mortar locations.

Bed Bath & Beyond temporarily converted about 25% of its store fleet into warehouses to complement four e-commerce fulfillment sites nationwide and its five large distribution centers.

Some 240 closed namesake stores and about 130 of its Buy Buy Baby stores have become regional fulfillment centers, allowing for orders to be “fulfilled within 50 miles of a customer’s home,” CEO Mark Tritton said on a conference call. That’s upped fulfillment capacity by 40%.

No Scissors, No Problem

The pandemic has hit consumers in different ways, from dealing with joblessness to business calls in the bathroom to teaching children their ABCs at dining room tables to waving at family and friends through windows and computer screens.

But who among us — except the hairless, of course — has not had to deal with unruly locks or two-tone colors as our manes have grown without attention? Supercuts, the 2,400-strong discount salon chain, can’t put scissors to heads yet, but it did offer an alternative: hats.

In a promotional email sent to customers, Minneapolis parent company Regis offered free “I’m waiting for Supercuts” caps that were claimed within 40 minutes after hitting the send button, Melissa Amponsah, associated vice president of integrated marketing, told Promo Marketing magazine.

Noting that social media was wired with hilarious posts about “people taking their hair into their own hands at home out of desperation,” Amponsah said, “we decided we could chime in and help.

“Home haircuts are not easy, so we took a different approach,” she added. “We produced these hats and gave permission to customers to cover unruly hair with a hat and be patient until Supercuts reopens.”

Supercuts has restocked the hats and keeps sending them.

Back to the Gym

Remember college weight gain known as the Freshman 15? It’s called the Quarantine 15 now with gyms and fitness centers across the country mostly closed. But plenty of them, wanting to stay top of mind and body for their members and potential new ones, are offering free or dirt-cheap online classes to do at home.

And considering there was a 55% leap in online orders for kettlebells, dumbbells, stationary bikes and treadmills from Jan. 1 to March 11, according to Adobe Analytics’ new Digital Economy Index, people were looking for them.

Peloton has been one of those early gainers, with a surge in sales of its popular bikes. But beyond spin classes, Peloton also offers yoga, strength, boot camp and cardio fitness workouts on its online app. The company was offering free access to them through Thursday.

Nike Training Club is offering its premium app for free “until further notice.” It has 185-plus workouts for all levels, a number of daily workout recommendations, and nutrition and wellness information. While the app gets a lot of thumbs-up on the website, users say it can be buggy.

Planet Fitness has become a big space filler at shopping centers as well as multifamily developments in recent years, and though its locations are all closed, it launched “Home Work-Ins,” free 20-minute at-home workouts through its Facebook page.

SoulCycle’s doors are also closed, but its instructors are going beyond spin classes and offering free workouts on their individual Instagram accounts. Classes vary each week and include yoga, dance, circuit and sculpting exercises.

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