Adapting retail sales approaches for the new normal

The pandemic brought major changes to retail – the question is what will, or should, stay.

In the past 12 months, retailers have had to adapt their sales processes and practices in ways they hadn’t tried before. Many of these new methods represent opportunities for the future.

For instance, the pandemic has prompted consumers to shop differently - in many cases, to go online for the first time. And it doesn’t look like digital shopping will decrease any time soon. The first half of 2020 saw an increase of 40 percent in the number of new digital shoppers. Over Cyber Week, there was an additional increase of 22 percent in the number of new digital shoppers globally.

The increased emphasis on digital shopping, combined with vastly increased health & safety concerns, has created the need for multiple new retail sales strategies. Moving forward, as vaccines become available and health restrictions begin to lift, the focus will shift to see what practices will be kept, ranging from new sales structures to the hyper focus on health and safety processes.

What does the future of sales look like?

To observe social distancing measures, an increasing number of shoppers have been attracted to options including delivery, curbside pickup, and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). According to a recent study by the NPD, 40% of consumers preferred to pick up online orders in-store. Interestingly, only 8% of retailers offered this service, and only 7% offered curbside pickup of online orders.

Retail organizations that can take advantage of this demand for convenience have a great opportunity to gain market share in the future.

Other options retailers have invested in also support the sales processes mentioned above. Serving as a continuation of the customer’s contactless journey, expanded convenience options have been made available such as dedicated fulfilment centres (some new, some from store conversions), buy on-line and return in-store (to reduce the inconvenience of having to repackage and repost goods for return), and more.

Yet there’s still pent-up demand for great face-to-face experiences on both the customer and the business side. Retailers want to re-establish the in-person customer relationships that have been challenging to develop and maintain online. And many customers still want or need to feel and try products for that one-on-one, hands on experience. For a number, there will never be a replacement for being able to walk out of the shop with their purchase, and this applies for everyone with an urgent purchase in mind.

Post-COVID, what fulfilment options will stay?

No matter how consumers shop – in brick-and-mortar stores or on-line - it’s critical to understand their needs to determine how to most effectively get product to them. Using that understanding to leverage seamless integration across all fulfillment channels can deliver significant benefits. A recent Salesforce report showed that retailers offering curbside, drive-thru and in-store pickup options experienced 54% digital revenue growth year-over-year in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared to 34% growth for those that didn’t.

Other practical examples of retailers successfully adapting their fulfillment strategies include:

  • Re-organization of physical store layouts to accommodate more pick-up orders, additional self-check-outs and reduced clutter in aisles
  • Additional availability options for contactless checkout and increased presence of sanitizer stations. Many grocers and pharmacies have also laid out their entrances with sanitized baskets clearly marked for use
  • SaveOnFoods, Loblaws (Real Canadian Superstore) and Shoppers Drug Mart with their online ordering and curbside pick-up and delivery. Staff who previously stocked shelves or provided in-store service are now fulfilling online orders for pick-up and delivery
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op, Lululemon and SportCheck with online purchasing and local pick-up and returns

Retail operations will likely never return to the way they were pre-COVID, but there is cautious optimism in hitting the reset button. Proactively capitalizing in the future on changes made during the pandemic has the potential to deliver significant new growth opportunities.

At JRoss Retail Recruiters, we understand the importance of the customer experience and continuing to adapt in delivering convenience and safety as a core part of that experience. As Canada’s leading retail recruiting specialist, we’re constantly connecting with retail leaders who have the skills and qualities required to successfully guide their companies through the new sales landscape.

The sample profiles below represent some of Canada’s top retail sales leaders. Their profiles show the kind of skills and experience retailers will need as they morph to operate successfully in our “new normal”. They may match yours, or you may discover you have transferrable skills. Retail professionals will be needed in other areas as well. If you focus on another area within retail, these profiles may give you some ideas regarding where you can add value as Canada’s retail industry rebuilds.

To learn more on this and other retail trends and insights you can check out our blog.

Canada’s Top Retail Sales Leaders – some examples

VP of Retail – Luxury Brands (Toronto)

This customer-centric senior operations executive has worked for the most progressive international luxury brands, brands known for premium products and service excellence. With extensive multi-channel experience in specialty and luxury retail, including concession environments, they’ve been leaders in operational change as their organization’s business model transformed from wholesale to national retail expansion. They’re data driven and skilled in customer acquisition, retention and life cycle management. This candidates is a retail sales leader with proven success developing and overseeing teams that are focused on deepening client relationships and providing unparalleled customer experience to build loyalty and propel business growth and revenue.

Regional Sales Manager – Fashion (Calgary)

This proven RM is one of the best senior level operations managers we’ve met in the market recently. They’ve been part of the expansion and development of several international new entrants in the Canadian market, and positioned those businesses for growth nationally. Working only for premium profile brands, they have strong business acuity combined with a thorough understanding of how each business segment functions and relates to each other in driving top line sales. They’ve consistently moved underperforming stores/districts to top ranks, and relocated across the country several times to build out new regions. Accustomed to working with a great deal of autonomy and a high level of accountability, this top level candidate would be a great fit in an organization that’s operationally progressive and has a strong consumer appeal.

District Sales Manager – Skin Care/Bath & Beauty (Vancouver)

This modern sales leader has worked extensively with leading brands in fashion, and bath and beauty. As a successful multi-unit manager of high volume, high profile retail locations in Western Canada, this proven achiever is always in the top 5 for profitability, target achievement, conversion, shrink and payroll control. They’re able to add value by recruiting top talent in each market, training and then internally promoting them to the next level. In terms of brand excellence, their stores are easy to shop, product is merchandised strategically to maximize gross margin, and product assortment is tailored to specific customer demographics. They’re both humbled & honoured to have won awards for DM of the Year and SM of the Year. This experienced multi-unit operator is dependable and results oriented, with experience in change management, turnaround scenarios and creating growth strategies.

Store Manager – Big-Box (Montreal)

This is not your everyday big-box operator. This candidate is a progressive leader with an MBA who embraces innovation, drives results by driving culture, and brings a great deal of strategy to everyday store sales and operations. Currently overseeing sales in the $50M+ range with more than 180 employees, they partner with 5 Assistant Store Managers, 10+ Supervisors and 20+ different departments. Over the past year, they’ve consistently outperformed on their targets while increasing Associate Engagement and Customer Satisfaction scores through continuous training. This proven operator is at their best when momentum lags: they refer to themselves as a distance runner rather than sprinter because they know how to identify top talent, patiently develop and nurture a team and incrementally build on KPI performance measurements.

Regardless of your area of retail expertise, we’d welcome you joining us as a JRoss candidate. To submit your resume, just click here.

Written by Patricia Viscount and Rob Fisher