Retailers face an enforced halt to business
Non essential store operations are closed by governments whilst grocery retailers struggle with exploding demand, both online and in stores. Retailers have tough questions as they face a temporary international suspension of economics. G.R.N. investigated international responses.
This is an international crisis that no-one expected. Up to a few weeks ago, all trade discussion was concerned with improving omnichannel and customer experience. Overnight, retailers face a major global but invisible challenge across all operations and all continents. A new virulent disease which crashes stock markets and halts economic activity, albeit temporarily. On March 16th, the European stock exchanges opened and fell respectively by 8% (Madrid), by 6% (Milan), by 5.6% (CAC 40 Paris) and by 4.8% (London). After arising in Asia, Covid-19 is now within both Europe and America, forcing everyone into drastic measures to slow the infection and mortality rate. On March 11th, Italy announced the closure of physical retailers apart from food and pharmacies, plus home delivery services. France followed on March 14th, with a planned closure of 6 to 8 weeks. Essential stores for food, pharmacies, tobacco shops, garden centres (for animal feed), some electronic products (computers, telephony), automotive equipment and agricultural equipment all remained open. A critical authority remained for all e-commerce warehouses.
Retailers are suffering grave economic damage. The Italian retail sector has 606,000 retail businesses, the highest in Europe. This accounts for 56.4% of G.D.P. and earns €879 billion. Food sales are now racing ahead in France. According to Nielsen, during the week of March 2nd to 8th, click and collect recorded a 29% increase in sales compared to 2019, with €164 million in turnover. In stores, activity in supermarkets and hypermarkets jumped by 9.4% compared to the same week in 2019.