Retail experts are not so sure. “I think the fundamental shifts happened in the last five to 10 years in terms of the move to online shopping and the popularity of athleisure and secondhand clothing,” says Wendy Liebmann, founder and CEO of WSL Strategic Retail in New York. “There will be more questions about how much clothing do we really need and a heightened sense of what we’re putting on our bodies in relation to the environment. We may even want to get dressed up for a while after being casual for so long. But in general, the forces that will shape retail’s future were already in place.”
St. Joseph’s University marketing professor Michael Solomon, who teaches courses in consumer behavior, thinks there will be some lingering changes. “The virus is forcing us to become aware of other ways of doing things—teaching online, for example,” he says. “Once you do that, people are likely to realize there are more options available to them.”
The coronavirus may accelerate the move to e-commerce in consumer goods, though the fashion category may be less susceptible to a shift. According to Forrester Research, more than 70 percent of apparel and accessories purchases are still made offline. Solomon predicts a short-term spike of foot traffic at retail stores after some of the pandemic concerns wane. But then, he says, patterns should revert back to form.
“When we settle down into a [new] new normal, it will be more integration of things people have already figured out,” says Solomon. “Consumers have different motivations to shop. Recreational shoppers do it for the social aspects. Those people are going crazy right now, but there are a lot more task-oriented shoppers out there who’ve always hated the experience. Virus or no virus, those things won’t change.”
Ad Age creates and shares an exclusive quarterly trend report with Ad Age Insider subscribers. Already an Insider? Instantly download the trend report here. Or learn more about Ad Age membership levels and benefits here.