The idea of the one-stop-shop is certainly not a new concept. For many, it’s their preferred way of shopping. Still, over the years, we’ve seen consumer habits evolve, and a willingness to go to multiple stores to get exactly what they’re looking for becomes not just acceptable but expected. Personal preference as a driver for our shopping trips was on par with convenience, if not trumping it in certain instances. That has all changed, and consumers are looking for ways to make their trips outside the home as efficient as possible.
Brands like Target, Walmart, and Kroger are positioned well to win based on the reemergence of the one-stop-shop. However, size doesn’t dictate the capability to amplify service. Specialty retailers and restaurants can maximize their offer to help relieve shopping fatigue and reduce stress even long after stores return to normal—altering their experience and offering to become essential in the long term.
With that in mind, we looked at three specific opportunities for evolution as shoppers begin to return and the new reality of retail takes shape.
New format strategies were already underway before the pandemic took hold. Smaller formats and stores dedicated to serving consumers in a localized manner will become more desirable.
Target, for example, announced plans last March that they’d be opening a location roughly the size of a convenience store, clocking in at a mere 6,000 square feet. This micro-Target is slated to welcome the public this year, and it appears it won’t be the only smaller store that will be added to their fleet. Although Target has scaled back its aggressive growth plans, they are still planning for 15-20 new small-format stores (down from 36 originally) ranging in size from 13,000 sq. ft. to 40,000 sq. ft— exploring locations as diverse as college campuses and the Las Vegas strip.
Target’s push to develop easy-to-shop stores with smaller, less intimidating environments and location-based tailored assortments is incredibly smart. We’ve seen in recent years that smaller formats have become a preferred way of shopping, and we believe even in the new reality, this will remain.
Moving to a smaller format doesn’t always need to be in the form of a store that has a permanent brick-and-mortar address. We’ve seen the emergence of unmanned mobile stores focused on essentials with extra small assortments. These mobile stores meet consumers where they are and capitalize on a desire for self-service.
China has proven to be the source of leading illustrations of exactly this type of strategy. Alibaba, for example, teamed up with Zhongbai and, in just 5 hours, built a grocery store outside of one of Wuhan’s key hospitals to address the needs of front-line healthcare workers. On its first day alone, it had over 200 customer visits.
Unity Drive Innovation, in eastern China, deployed autonomous, self-driving vans to deliver fresh food to checkpoint workers during the lockdown to reduce person-to-person contact. Russian grocer Vkusvill installed supermarket vending machines in apartment lobbies to enable residents easy access to food essentials without leaving the property. These are all great examples of the type of creative thinking regarding your store’s format that the new retail landscape will require.