Pandemic could change the way we shop forever

Retailers closed during the coronavirus pandemic forced consumers to shop online and through apps, but the temporary changes could have some lasting impacts on the industry.

“A lot of it is moving online. Amazon is doing well. But a lot of the online retailers are not doing well,” said Donna Davis, Ph.D., a professor at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida.

With less disposable income in shoppers’ pockets, the industry took the biggest hit ever recorded last month, according to the National Retail Federation. And shops are doing what they can to try and recover.

“There’s a lot of inventory that they need to move,” said Davis, who added that retailers’ supply moving forward heavily depends on what part of the world it comes from. “They may have more responsive supply chains where they can order less, or they say don’t send me quite as much for that particular style.”

So as Florida prepares to reopen, Davis said she sees more stores keeping the minimal contact policies.

“It’s going to look different when we actually go in to shop now,” Davis said. “I think they’ll try to do everything they can to protect their workers and so the contactless payments using your iPhone or every more of the buy online and pick it up in-store.”

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As for returns, retail researchers said they believe businesses will be flexible.

“If a shopper is thinking I might not buy it because I might not be able to return it, then they want to overcome that objection. So they’re going to keep I would think pretty generous return policies,” said Davis.

Also, consumers can expect to see more workers and customers wearing face masks.

“If we really believe what we say which is that those frontline workers are heroes right now. They go in as a sacrifice for themselves, and the least we can do is cover our faces when you go into a retail establishment,” said Davis.

As more stores get ready to open up, retails experts say they also expect to see shops continue limiting the number of people going in and out at one time.

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Scott Shalley, president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation, told FOX 13 he believes Florida retailers will adapt quickly to the new normal to protect consumers and workers, continuing with online platforms, delivery and curbside pickup.

“The Florida Retail Federation encourages Florida families to support Florida businesses. There are more than 270,000 retail stores across the state, and one in every five Florida jobs are tied to the industry,” said Shalley in an emailed statement. “By supporting Florida retail stores - in person when they open, online and through curbside or delivery services - you can support Florida businesses and Florida jobs.”