The impact the coronavirus is having on the global fashion industry is already undeniable, with fashion shows and trade fairs being cancelled, stores and offices being closed, and travel being disrupted.

The Covid-19 virus, which earlier this week was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), is also impacting large and small retailers, which are feeling the effects of falling footfall and have announced delays to arrivals and supply chain issues.

But as the virus continues to spread, now is the time for companies to take action and prepare themselves for its impact, according to retail data company Edited. The firm has noted five strategies, listed below, that retailers can implement to minimise the impacts of the virus on their businesses.

1. Maintain an aura of newness

Sourcing stock and generating newness is undeniably difficult as factories continue to be quarantined, but that won’t stop consumer demand, so retailers need to think outside the box.

Retailers can still create an aura of newness and excitement by promoting products they already have to customers who may not have seen them yet. To achieve this, retailers should be particularly creative with their edits, focusing on colour stories and style-encompassing themes such as the 70s, 90s and basics which can be pulled from their current assortments. Retailers can also focus on work-from-home and loungewear assortments if self-isolation becomes more widespread.

2. Get your future assortment right

While getting an assortment right is key to any retailer’s strategy, during an industry level scale disruption like Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to nail it and avoid the wrong investment or deadstock, the consequences of which could be especially severe in such a scenario.

Retailers should tighten their operations and bring assortments to a minimum while the market is in flux by cancelling unnecessary orders. Retailers that can rapidly downsize their orders and upshift them again once the market has recovered are going to be the successful ones. If possible, retailers should also consider domestic or local suppliers.

3. Reconsider your discounting strategy

March is traditionally a period of heavy discounting as we enter into the mid-season sales period. But as it is so hard to predict an end date for the current pandemic, and with ongoing uncertainty and delays to supplies, retailers are less inclined to want to clear stock as usual.

But this can offer an opportunity for retailers. The mid-season sale concept can be confusing for some shoppers who are just feeling the tail end of the winter. That, coupled with the growing trend of ‘instant gratification’ – or shoppers’ desire to buy what they want to wear now – offers retailers an opportunity to align themselves more closely with their customer’s needs. Also, consider that Black Friday 2019 discounts of 20-30 percent sold out more than heftier price cuts, proving that bigger discounts aren’t always better. For items that are too season-specific to hold on too – think heavy rain jackets or thick scarves – retailers should consider smaller sales edit or category-specific promotions.

4. Maintain consumer engagement

During disruptive periods it can be easy to disconnect with customers, whether it’s due to tightened purse strings, falling footfall or lower stocks because of supply chain disruption. But it is essential in the period to keep shoppers engaged.

If people have to self isolate, increased online activity by retailers can keep them engaged. This could be a good opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers to step-up their online efforts. Video-sharing social networking service Tik-Tok, for example, could be a way to go about this, offering retailers the opportunity to create or take part in challenges to engage customers. In preparation for an expected increase in home deliveries, retailers should promote shipping offers to stand out from competition.

5. Be honest in your marketing strategy

It is unrealistic to assume customer service not be impacted by the pandemic and retailers should be transparent about the challenges they are facing and the impact that could have on shoppers. Retailers should highlight potential delays to deliveries ahead of purchase and have extra customer services representatives on hand if needed.

Some companies effectively approaching this issue are Nordstrom and Target, which sent mail subscribers messages outlining the hygiene measures they are taking to ensure their stores are still clean and safe; Uniqlo, which on its Hong Kong e-commerce homepage admitted to and apologised for having delays in manufacturing and distribution; and David’s Bridal, which reassured its shoppers with a message: ‘concerned about coronavirus-related delays? We’ve got you covered’.

Courtesy :Fashionunited :by Huw Hughes

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