Coronavirus Digital Discussion: How COVID-19 is reshaping the retail landscape


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – If you’ve been out to shop recently you may have seen your favorite store is closed or going out of business, most as a direct result of the pandemic impact. Ray Mattes, President and CEO of the Retail Alliance told already this year we’ve seen 26 major national retail chains close, compared to 17 that closed in all of 2019.

Restaurants, he said, continue to have the greatest challenges. “They are really just trying to stay alive to be able to pay and take care of their staff. Their profit margins have just been hammered… hammered.”

As businesses look for new ways to stay afloat, many of their customers are jumping ship and going online. Mattes provided the numbers, “There’s been a 71% growth in digital sales this year as opposed to last year, there’s been a 40% increase on new customers that are new to e-commerce.”

Many small businesses have been forced to move into e-commerce sooner then they wanted, Mattes said. “The bottom line is that a lot of these brick and mortars, they’re going to actually be more fulfillment centers then they are going to be for consumers coming in looking for product.”

As the holidays approach these retailers will have to keep a close watch on inventory and deal with decisions on shipping costs, whether to absorb the cost or pass it along to consumers. Mattes predicts backups with both delivery and inventory.

“Consumers are going to need to buy earlier to eliminate out of stock items,” he said.

It’s not all bad news though. The Royal Chocolate in Virginia Beach, for example, tweaked its popular build-your-own candy bar event to mail order.

Mattes says others have gotten creative too; some even started successful businesses making masks or cleaning offices.

Mattes can’t predict what the local retail landscape will look like when this is all over, but this he believes, “I believe in this country, I believe in Capitalism, I believe that our members our retailers are very ingenious, very creative and I don’t want to say they’re stubborn, but they’re determined to be successful.”

Click on the video below to watch Stephanie’s full interview with Ray Mattes.

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