There is growing evidence that the pandemic is changing consumer habits. Retailers are aware of the need to pivot their offering online, but smaller businesses are often at a disadvantage when it comes to transforming their businesses and they need help from both Government and local authorities.
The Government needs to provide further support to small businesses by giving them a grant to help invest in online sales platforms. This would allow them to continue to serve their customers in the key Christmas shopping period despite lower footfall in the stores.
Furthermore, a grant should be supplemented by advisory support at the local authority level. This would provide access to regional expertise, further supporting local economies. Such actions will enable businesses to grow their way out of the pandemic. If training and other support is not forthcoming, we will only be left with online brands, when what is needed is a combination of online with bricks and mortar.
Many retailers are relying upon the furlough scheme to meet their payroll costs and avoid redundancies. This short-term measure is just papering over the cracks and does not help businesses build resilience or adapt to changing consumer behaviour. With incomes becoming static or even falling, many small and medium-sized retailers do not have the resources to invest in online shopping platforms or have the ability to interact with their customers through social media.
Retailers need help at both a Government and local level and they need it now, but most vitally it must be joined-up.