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Disruption creates space for new thinking and opportunities

Monica Yiankias had just started her role as Retail Director Liquor King when New Zealand locked down. We asked Monica if she could share some of her insights and learnings about using this time of crisis to build a better base for the future.

When I agreed my start date in my new role as Retail Director for Liquor King, I never anticipated that I would be working with the team to close the stores eight days later and all of us would be on a giant global pandemic rollercoaster.

On my first day, all our Liquor King support office (and the wider Lion team) started working from home. Now, two months later, unfortunately I have still been unable to get out to our stores due to lockdown and am yet to meet most of my new colleagues face-to-face. I have no doubt they are going to be surprised by how much shorter I am than I appear to be on Zoom.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has been, and continues to be, a challenging time for us all. When we moved to Level 2 last week, local publications shared that the retail world has got off to a slow start and it will be some time before things return to ‘normal’.

We have all been disrupted and that’s our opportunity.

It is still not too late to use this time of crisis to build a stronger base for the future – just like Isaac Newton did when he used his time in isolation during London’s 1665 bubonic plague to discover the law of gravity. Old routines have been disrupted and has led to people thinking in new ways. I have identified three areas where this is true and how each of these presents an opportunity for all of us.

Firstly, consumer behaviour has changed

How much it has changed is being hotly debated and won’t be proven until we are much further down the path, but we have gone through a massive shift in society over the last few months. All evidence points to the fact that this global pandemic will have some sort of impact on consumer behaviour.

Will consumers be looking for more ‘better value’ offerings, are they looking for solutions to enable them to stay at home more (as we all experience the newly defined FOGO or Fear-Of-Going-Out) or has holistic wellbeing had such a boost through this time that it will become critical to all offerings? There has been much coverage on the positive impact on the environment of the global lockdowns – how much further will this drive Climate Action and the importance of sustainable solutions as we start to go back to our ‘old ways’ of living. As retailers, we need to understand our customers – what changes are we starting to see, what will people want in the future and what impact will this have on your business?

Secondly, the importance of local

Chalk drawings on fence

Through lockdown we have been restricted to our local vicinity. People have spent more time in their local neighbourhood than ever before. I’ve loved seeing the chalk drawings on fences and driveways with uplifting messages for all the neighbourhood. As we start to emerge into Level 2, the importance of local has become very clear and people are actively looking to support local communities and businesses.

This is an opportunity for us all to tap into, how can you play a role in supporting the local community and how can you bring your local community the best products and services. Lion has launched a campaign supporting local bars and restaurants called “Cheers To Your Local” because right now, local businesses need the support.

Lastly, technology

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has hammered home the importance of being tech savvy, it has given us a glimpse into the future. Those businesses with websites or social media presence have had an advantage and those with an understanding of technology will be the ones who will continue to perform better. Euromonitor has predicted that by 2021, e-Commerce will be the largest sales channel globally, bigger than physical stores, and that the majority of this will be done via mobile devices. Now is the time to review how each of us are set up and to get our house in order, because the technology evolution isn’t going to stop.

So as we move forward through Level 2 and into Level 1, I’m really excited about two things – firstly, getting out to meet all my new team and secondly, what the future holds for all of us. As Walt Disney once said, “All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

If there is a silver lining we can take from this situation, it’s to use this time to embrace the changes, evaluate what it means for your business and come through stronger from this kick in the teeth. I know we are doing it and I would encourage you all to do so too.

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