The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is impacting businesses and communities across the world in ways that seemed unimaginable even a month ago. All industries are feeling its effects, but brands and retailers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry are among those on the front lines of this fight. With consumer shopping habits fluctuating rapidly, there are new rules of engagement brands and retailers will need to focus on to keep shelves stocked with critical items, and at the same time, keep shoppers and employees safe.
One of the most important steps retailers should take is ensuring the most in-demand preventative and pantry-loading items, like hand sanitizer, paper products and bottled water, remain available on shelves. Retailers can consider purchase limits on such items to keep up with demand and to better serve all of their customers. We’ve all seen the images of barren shelves in stores, and restocking is currently a top priority. When you consider the time and staffing required for this, it may necessitate modifying store hours.
Ensuring safety is paramount, and retailers will need to be resourceful. Many consumers are avoiding in-store shopping entirely, so retailers need to ramp up their online and delivery services. They may need to be creative with staffing, reassigning employees from other departments to those most in need.
To protect shoppers who are making trips to the store, as well as employees, retailers should implement new cleaning and sanitizing protocols as well as consider offering special store hours for at-risk shoppers, like seniors, or controlling store count to help shoppers and staff maintain social distancing. Additionally, retailers should consider temporarily eliminating “bring your own bag” initiatives and installing plexiglass protective shields at checkout. Placing colored tape on the floor at six-foot intervals can help ensure customers are practicing social distancing while standing in line. Retailers will need to communicate new safety precautions to their shoppers so they know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
For manufacturers, the chief focus should be on production of core items to keep up with demand. To supplement those incremental production needs, they may need to hire seasonal staff. Manufacturers should provide solutions to help stores maintain their inventory of key preventative and pantry-loading items with pallet quantities and direct ship options.
Collaboration between retailers and manufacturers is essential during these changing times. They should stack hands to drive shelf stock for their customers, and manufacturers should proactively schedule virtual communications with their retailers to support supply chain and product sourcing.
The only thing that’s for certain in today’s world is that more change is coming. Shopping habits will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months, and our industry will need to be nimble and creative as we weather the storm and do all we can to ensure shoppers across the country have access to the items they need.
Colin Stewart is executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta, an engine that drives greater sales and market share for consumer goods manufacturers and retailers.
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