Mango has begun reopening stores, the Barcelona-based fashion group said Monday.
It’s among the first major fashion brands to re-animate stores that for weeks have been rendered useless amid the coronavirus outbreak that has rocketed around the globe.
As national lockdowns are loosened and more apparel and footwear sellers begin to think about bringing their own physical outlets back to their pre-pandemic state, many are left grappling with questions of what consumer expectations will be and whether an expected second wave of COVID-19 infections will strike. Then there’s the looming unknown of what shoppers will actually be interested in buying.
For now, with permission from local authorities, Mango has opened four stores in Austria and another 16 in The Netherlands, with all locations undergoing continuous cleaning, limiting open times and supplying employees and customers with personal protective equipment. Later this week the Spanish retailer plans to open 16 additional Dutch shops on top of 42 in Germany. Another 27 stores will reopen in the Czech Republic, Latvia, Georgia, Cyprus and Ukraine. The company reinstated 53 stores in countries such as China, while 62 stores across 17 countries including Finland, South Korea and Indonesia never closed. So far 135 stores are open, with another 483 set to open this month, bringing the total to 621.
Consumers have ‘cabin fever’ but does that mean they want to hit the stores?
Though consumer might be chomping at the bit to break out of quarantine, they might not be completely sold on the safety of public spaces.
“While cabin fever has clearly set in for most people, it is unlikely that stores and restaurants will be full of patrons immediately after the ‘all-clear’ has been given,” said Dana Telsey, founder and analyst at Telsey Advisory Group.
Because customers don’t want to worry about their health when visiting stores, retailers might want to devise an “environment where masks, hand sanitizers, capacity limits, spacing mandates, frequent cleaning, temperature checks and reduced hours of operation are the norm,” Telsey said, until a cure, vaccine or mass, rapid testing is available. She also doesn’t rule out the need for appointments and even reservations for entry to certain locations, such as events and restaurants.
Telsey said shopping centers could include machine-automated temperature checks upon entering. Retailers could instruct sales associates to sanitize dressing rooms in the presence of the consumer so that shoppers feel comfortable trying on apparel.
‘Fresh goods,’ but when and how?
Walter Loeb, former retail analyst and now consultant, expects stores to reopen in May or June—but in staggered waves. He predicts there will be a gradual reopening, with trial-and-error as retailers learn which locations can open, whether any store might need to be shuttered temporarily if there’s another local uptick in COVID-19 infections, and also what kind of merchandise consumers might be looking to buy.
Most retailers are now in the process of readying their back-to-school and fall assortments, or at least those orders that either have been reduced or not fully canceled. And retailers that are planning on opening store locations later in the summer, either late August or early September, will need to see merchandise better suited for fall and early winter, Loeb said.
“Stores need to acquire fresh goods, but many may not be sure of what to buy right now or even how much to buy,” he said. Much of that uncertainty also comes from trying to figure out a timetable for store openings by region, but that can’t be done until there’s more certainty over when peak infections by state have occurred. That involves calculating projections for how long it will take for the volume of infections to taper off and whether antibody testing is ready for scale.
In addition, retailers that couldn’t cancel already produced orders will have a glut of merchandise meant for summer, along with leftover spring goods. That could see consumers taking advantage of goods at deep discount that they can still wear into early- and mid-fall. That idea of “buy now, wear now” won’t be a problem if warmer weather holds up past August and deep into September or early October.
But Loeb cautioned that if more Americans continue to work at home, they may not need to buy anything, even at extreme markdowns, if they’ve already purchased online now, and that’s presuming consumers are even willing to spend down the road, given the ongoing economic tumult. Last week saw the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits over a four-week period exceeding 22 million, a total that’s expected to tick up further in the weeks ahead.