Hope for the Best; Prepare for the Worst

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Hope for the Best; Prepare for the Worst

By Don Longo - 01/06/2021

If 2020 taught us anything, it was the necessity of accepting change. The pandemic forced major changes in the operations of convenience retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The industry embraced change better than most. While some product categories faltered, others flourished. We saw companies successfully pivot from live conferences and trade shows to online events.

Hell, I even accepted that Lee Child’s brother Andrew has taken over authorship of his iconic “Jack Reacher” series of novels. If I can swing with that, I can handle anything.

As I write this, the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered to a 91-year-old woman in England. There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But, pandemic or no pandemic, change is not going to come to a halt in 2021. In fact, I expect we’ll see an accelerated push for transformation in the year ahead.

I’m not going to bore you with the usual buzzwords of home delivery, curbside pickup, mobile ordering, and the like. Those trends are already becoming mainstream in the world of convenience retailing. Instead, I’ve culled a few predictions from some respected sources that I think will greatly impact retailers:

  • Accelerated adoption of contactless payments. Use of QR codes will also increase as a touchless method of payment as consumers become more familiar with using QR codes to pay at fuel pumps and for initiating check-ins, picking up orders, and for accessing formerly physical info, such as restaurant menus.
  • Push for EMV compliance intensifies. With the April liability shift date looming, there will be a rush by fuel retailers, particularly smaller operators, to make the transition to chip at the pump.
  • Transparency. Shoppers want clear evidence of store safety and sanitation measures, and where their food and drinks are coming from.
  • Focus on workforce technology. The need for seamless integration of store-level and headquarters data and communications is one of the greatest lessons to come out of the pandemic.
  • Working from home will continue. Businesses that once felt people needed to be in the office every day to be productive now realize their employees are just as efficient working remotely. This will affect all out-of-home breakfast sales.
  • Business travel will return to near pre-pandemic levels. There appears to be huge pent-up demand among both retailers and suppliers to get back out into the market, visit stores, network at trade shows, and do all the things that help improve the industry’s ability to serve its customers.

Whatever happens in 2021, the past year has taught us to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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Getting Better, But Not Nearly Normal

The pandemic accelerated trends already in play and quickened the adoption of new store-level technology.