People in the warehouse
Amazon has its hands full. From trying to get basic necessities into the hands of people nationwide and worldwide, to prioritizing categories among its sellers, to coping with its own Coronavirus outbreaks among employees while simultaneously looking to add tens of thousands of workers, now more than ever before brands and retailers need to step up and fill the void.
As the impact of Coronavirus continues to take hold, Amazon just announced that it will stop shipping non-essentials in Italy and France in an effort to be able to maintain “social distancing” rules within its warehouses. At least five workers at Amazon warehouses in Europe have tested positive for coronavirus, and workers at an Amazon warehouse in Italy went on strike March 17th to protest inadequate action by the company to protect them from being exposed to the infection.
Here in the U.S., we are likely moments from this same outcome. According to this recent piece, four Democratic U.S. senators on Friday expressed concern in a letter to Jeff Bezos that the company has not provided enough support to warehouse staff during the coronavirus outbreak. While the company responded saying the protections are adequate, New York City reported the first Amazon Covid-19 case in America in a Queens warehouse facility just days ago.
It’s my view that Amazon workers on the frontlines are to be commended for stepping up and helping consumers get critical items when they are unable to leave their homes, facing the risk of their own infection. However, Amazon’s re-focus has also left a massive gap for consumers who have been conditioned to buy and receive everything they need on Amazon in a day or two.
We are still in early days and food, health and cleaning supplies are certainly first priority. However, with places like New York, San Francisco and other metropolitan areas facing potentially months of self-quarantine ahead of them, retailers and brands have an opportunity and obligation to help these consumers get the less-essential items they will still need. With the weather changing, it could be spring clothing and upsized shoes for growing children, or even new books, games or Legos for families locked inside, or beauty products now that salons are closed.
Coresight Research recently supplied data on what consumers are buying outside of the essentials, including clothing, footwear and fashion (28.7 percent), electronics and appliances (16.2 percent), and toys or games (14.7). Not surprisingly, food, health, and personal care items ranked higher, but the data does speak to products consumers will be looking to purchase should this economic pause continue for weeks to come, and they’ll likely need to go outside Amazon to get them.
Hasbro CEO Brian Golder told CNBC on Monday that the company is experiencing strong demand during the coronavirus pandemic, and overall the company is seeing great demand for their products such as Monopoly, Operation, and Play-Doh. He said the company is also planning new products in response to the widespread stay-at-home directives being issued across the country.Buying “comfort items” could also be an opportunity for those consumers who need a pick-me-up. Hershey’s is already anticipating a spike according to a Business Insider article, as analysts said the company “tends to see a spike in demand during crises, like the recession between 2008 and 2010.”
Consumers Can Support Their Favorite Retailers Guilt Free
Many consumers may also want to support their favorite retailers to ensure they’re still around when the virus has passed, however some are concerned with the burden their orders may place on already strained logistics and delivery. However, Mike Howell, co-founder and CEO of Dolly, a logistics and supply chain company, told Business Insider this would not be an issue because companies like his have expanded their networks of trucking fleets. The article also quotes Jonathan Treiber, CEO of the offer management platform RevTrax saying that consumers don’t need to feel shameful about buying goods online, especially from small businesses currently hit by the blow of temporary closures. “In this environment, consumers should support any of their favorite retailers that may be suffering from forced store closures due to coronavirus,” he said.
Retailers and Brand Enticing Consumers to Purchase Online with New Deals
Retailers and brands are also offering online sales and promotions to lure more consumers to purchase on their sites. Sephora said it’s waiving standard shipping fees and extending its return policy to 60 days to be more online-friendly. Nike sent out a 25 percent sitewide discount code via email. A banner on Macy’s website reads, “Relax, recharge & WFH.” and is offering free shipping on purchases of at least $25, for everyone. It is also offering free shipping with $25 beauty purchases – deals usually reserved for loyal members. American Eagle’s Aerie is offering free returns “for a limited time” and is giving shoppers 40% to 60% off bras and underwear online. Vineyard Vines has been offering a 30% discount sitewide for its spring clothing.
Now more than ever, retailers and brands are faced not only with survival, but an opportunity to fill a massive Amazon void, build relationships with new and existing customers and ensure their future through online shopping. The earlier they connect with consumers the better and, to allow their assortment to reflect the right products, the smartest retailers and brands are already engaging.