I couldn’t find an appropriate greeting card anywhere, and believe me I looked everywhere.
In mid-June, I searched high and low for a few greeting cards for college and high school graduations, as well as one for a birthday party. Frankly, it was easier finding toilet paper in the middle of April than it was finding these cards in the month of June. Retailers said that suppliers were sending fewer cards their way due to the pandemic.
The same thing happened with cashews. Suddenly, and for reasons unknown, they have pretty much disappeared from retail stores, at least in my area of the country. In another example, and please do not tell my son, but I overheard him say that there was a slim selection of condoms in his favorite store.
And, to me that sums up the business of mass retailing during the COVID-19 pandemic: To some degree, some parts of the mass retail industry have panicked. Yes, the industry did a bang-up job with keeping the public fed and well medicated over the course of this crisis. Yes, stores stayed open and as well stocked as possible, easing consumer fears and concerns. And, yes, in the end, there was enough toilet paper and paper towels for everyone.
But, the industry — not necessarily the retailers — lost track of some things. As a whole, we failed to realize that other parts of our lives have gone on, and they did not keep up with the demand.
So let’s be clear here. I want the opportunity to purchase greeting cards, cashews, condoms and other items during the few planned trips I — or my son — now make to a mass retail outlet. From my point of view, consumers need to be pushed back to their level of normalcy, and having as many products as possible on store shelves will go a long way to helping them feel comfortable in a retailer’s store.
Now, it is time to go back to work. The pandemic is far from over and it is crucial that we abide by all the rules to help get through the next few months safely. But that does not mean that the industry cannot start restocking their shelves with the products their shoppers want, need and desire.