Covid-19 sparked the closure of retail stores globally. Although encouraged to support local businesses, people now face a precarious situation when shopping. While the outbreak is affecting various aspects of contemporary lifestyle, it may have more perpetual effects on how we shop.
Consumers now face a question of whether or not they should continue their buying behavior. E-commerce businesses are now the only avenue of consumption. No longer can individuals leave their homes to shop in brick and mortar storefronts.
Companies such as Wayfair, an online furniture store, have extended their services online. The “View in Room” feature on the Wayfair mobile app allows customers to take pictures of their space on their smartphones and overlay 2-D images of their products. Wayfair is a company that allows furniture to be “tried on” before it is purchased. These same technological advances have been implemented by companies, such as Raybans, and other retail branches in the industry. Clothing from online retailers can be tried on and easily sent back for exchange with free shipping.
Individuals are forced to buy online as a necessity, begging the question within the retail sphere whether or not it is indeed a necessity to shop in person. Most reputable brands are continuing to encourage online shopping through commercial advertising and large markdown sales. There has been a rise in promotional advertising through social media to reach out and encourage consumers to shop online. However, there is a lack of demand from consumers, for there are no social gatherings or work events to shop for and many consumers are trying to save money in these uncertain times. Brands that are favored by consumers require support during these times through their online shopping outlets. Unfortunately, brick and mortar stores are falling deeper into the recession and many, such as Neiman Marcus, have filed for bankruptcy.
Large e-commerce merchants such as Amazon have large infrastructures and have been very successful during this period of economic stress. Amazon stock is trading close to an all-time high. Their success is accompanied with the necessity for individuals to continue their spending behaviors on consumer items beyond retail. Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, are doing just fine. Meanwhile, J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy. The rest of the economy is suffering terribly from what will likely be the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. While Amazon is a reputable source that has reached the doors of the mainstream consumer population, other businesses are suffering for not carrying this same popularity. I imagine small family stores in my community that I used to frequent may not survive.
If we can afford to shop for either essential or non-essential items, I believe it is imperative that we support small businesses during these trying times. If we do not, they may not exist when we eventually emerge from this world of “social distancing.” I imagine that we will fall back into periods of intermittent social distancing over the course of the next year. In this probable case, the economy must continue to be stimulated by individuals with sufficient resources. Purchasing items, whether it be from an e-commerce merchant or a retail distributor, is an important contribution by those who still have the means. To shop, but not without caution.