By Lisbeth Calandrino As we continue into what we think is our “post-pandemic” period, there are still many shifting consumer trends — people who remain reluctant about going shopping, dining out indoors at restaurants or having installers in their houses. I say “post” because there are several signs that still indicate that we’re very much in the throes of a pandemic.
My next-door neighbor was telling me how bad her carpet looked the other day, but she’s still unwilling to hire a carpet cleaner because she doesn’t want any workmen in her home. She decided she’s going to clean it the best she can all by herself.
Despite the fact my friend has had her COVID-19 immunizations, she doesn’t go to many places. This is a trend I think will continue for quite a while as people reacclimate to going out in public and among groups. As retailers, you need to be ready and respond accordingly.
This leads us into one of my first consumer trends; it’s called the Do-It-Yourselfer continues.
When I say DIY, I don’t only mean flooring—although having classes on this inside the store has always been a good draw. Maybe it’s the DIY backsplash, or “let’s paint a wall,” or some other home decorating project. You can partner with other trades and have that weekly Zoom interaction. It could be cooking, flower arranging, starting a small business or gardening.
The do-it-yourself trend isn’t new. However, the pandemic has forced many people to do more for themselves. We’re maybe still not doing the “heavy lifting,” such as putting on a new roof, but we’re learning how to do repair projects around the house.
Another of the consumer trends I see is unconventional partnerships—such as home centers and specialty retailers. It may sound crazy, but I am aware of retailers that provide installation or even products for the box stores. If I were a store owner, I would call the manager at one of the box stores with a proposition to supply labor or to do an installation workshop for them. (I know what you’re thinking—“she’s crazy!”). But If I were a customer and saw on social media that you were doing a workshop for a box store, I know where I would shop.
The growth of concierge services is another trend that’s also gaining steam. Usually relegated to high-end hotels or upscale retail establishments, concierge services are becoming more popular in the age of social distancing. For flooring and home furnishings dealers, having a concierge service might entail offering curbside pickup. Or, how about bringing samples to the customer’s home and offering to go out and measure for a job or talk about your concierge installation? These specialized services go along with your craftspeople and your knack for custom installation.
I’m also seeing more creative use of outdoor space these days–Look no further than the restaurant industry for examples. How about getting creative with your parking lot? I hate when I go by a flooring store during the summer and there’s nothing going on in a huge, empty parking lot. If it were mine, I would regularly schedule a farmer’s market in my parking lot. You could host all kinds of different events—raffles, arcade games, fun things for sale.
Bottom line: With all the changes happening in retail today—combined with evolving consumer shopping habits—it’s important to look for exciting new opportunities to engage with customers. What’s the worst that could happen? And you might have some fun in the process.
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.