Editor’s Note: Rising to the challenge
This might just go down as mass retail’s finest moment. As the coronavirus quickly overwhelmed large swaths of the country in mid-March, the mass retail industry — from suppliers through retailers — might have bent a little, but it never broke.
In fact, when we look back at this time of confusion and concern due to the crisis, I have to believe that many will thank the mass retail industry for helping to calm consumers’ nerves and alleviate their concerns that there was simply not going to be enough products — whether it was toilet paper, canned goods or medicines — to satisfy shoppers’ needs.
Also, people will remember that this was all done while most merchants still paid a great deal of attention to protecting the health and well-being of their customers and their staffs.
Most importantly, the industry — individually and collectively — quickly and effectively developed and instituted programs that made sure there were enough products on store shelves to dissipate any potential consumer panic. Those measures included shortening store hours to efficiently restock shelves and sanitize stores, creating special shopping hours for seniors, installing plastic partitions to protect cashiers, and coming up with programs that prevented hoarding.
But there was a lot more that was not as obvious. More and more stories are coming out about how retail workers went to great lengths to serve their customers. Often on their own, many store employees went out of their way to assist consumers who had questions about products, store hours and quick checkouts. There are even stories of workers helping older shoppers with their shopping lists or helping to take bags to their cars.
With medical doctors not as available as usual, pharmacists, in particular, are being cited for stepping up and trying to calm consumer fears by answering as many questions as they could about the best way to protect themselves during the pandemic.
When this madness finally ends — and the world returns to the new normal — one can only hope that people will remember the great job retailers did to keep America fed and safe.
The fact is that retailers are doing a great job, and all of them — from bottom to top — have earned a well-deserved pat on the back from the rest of us.