What does the future look like for retail spaces in 2021?

Harvey Holloway
Freelance Digital Marketer
25th March 2021

With some of the many side effects of COVID-19 being more people staying at home and reducing their face to face interactions, retail spaces are finding drumming up business to be a challenge. But in fact, retail has been seeing problems for many years as it faces increasing competition from online companies. 

The pandemic could perhaps be seen as an opportunity for businesses with retail space to rethink their strategy and create somewhere that customers want to visit. 

A focus on hygiene

There’s no escaping the fact that the pandemic has changed everything when it comes to how we shop and interact with one another. So, making sure that your retail space is as hygienic as possible is of paramount importance. Installing hand sanitisers has become essential, but retail spaces need to go further by thinking about how customers move through the shop. 

Make sure that you create a navigation that minimises contact with other customers and staff, as well as making it easy for shoppers to maintain hygienic standards, such as providing contactless payments for example. It’s important to remind customers of the steps you’re taking to be hygienic, which will, in turn, remind them to do the same. 

Consider partitioning

For as long as COVID-19 is an issue, businesses will need to find solutions to keep people safe. Partitioning has typically been thought of as something used in offices, but it can actually be put to great use in retail premises. 

“Glass partitions act as a natural barrier that still allow a retail space to feel spacious,” says Lee Whiting, Managing Director at Octego “they could be fitted to allow shops and other commercial premises to install a one-way system”. Not only is partitioning great for maintaining a safe distance between shoppers and staff, but it’s also easy to clean to maintain a hygienic space. 

Re-thinking product placement

Now that many businesses have reopened to the public, redesigning spaces to accommodate the ‘new normal’ has been at the forefront of every business owner’s mind. But when doing this, it’s important to think about how the majority of people will use your retail space. If they enter the store from one area, this needs to be kept as accessible as possible while also being self-contained so that shoppers don’t affect each other. 

Businesses can achieve this by offering two separate entrances – one for those looking to shop quickly and another for those wanting to browse and take their time. Not only does this adhere to the new protective measures, but it also offers a better customer experience. 

Improved HVAC and filtration

There has been a panic surrounding air conditioning spreading the virus but, actually, many types of air conditioning units are completely safe. The rules state that spaces must be properly ventilated and the air conditioning must not recirculate air but draw in fresh air in order to be safe. 

Businesses need to take the time to look at their HVAC and ventilation systems to fully understand what needs to be changed in order to protect their employees and customers. 

The rise of showrooms

Retail businesses can benefit enormously from a blend of physical premises and online spaces. Showrooms offer customers the opportunity to see products in person before they buy, while online shopping allows them the convenience of making purchases from home. 

In having both spaces, businesses can overcome the issue that many people want to see an item before they buy while still staying competitive in offering online options. The future may be digital, but for retail businesses, there is still plenty of advantage in having a physical showroom. 

Final thoughts

Retail businesses always need to be one step ahead and with the pandemic shifting so much about how we work and shop, it’s more important than ever to be able to adapt to the changing climate.

Customers’ needs aren’t going anywhere, particularly with so much time spent at home, so there is still plenty of value in businesses in the retail sector. But the ways in which these businesses work will likely evolve going forwards, from a focus on the ways customers shop to hygienic standards and understanding how product placement affects the buyer’s journey.

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