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The coronavirus crisis and containment have shaken the retail sector and consumer habits. Between the health safety requirements and the rise of digital technology, how could look the “new normal” for post-covid consumption? What operational models and practices are emerging in the sector? 

Interview with Charles Bianchi (HEC 1996), strategy consultant and expert in retail and digital.

Q : What has been the impact of the crisis on practices of retailers ? What are the transformations that could influence the post-covid environment?  


CB :This period had a considerable impact on the retail sector, with important divergences depending on the segments concerned. Regarding the business activity, for example, the crisis benefited the food sector, with a record revenues growth at the beginning of the containment period. By contrast, in apparel, the closure of non-food stores and the consumer’s reassessment of their needs led to a record drop in consumer spending in these segments. 

 In terms of practices, the first impact of this period is a substantial rise of e-commerce. In eight weeks, the digital maturity in retail and distribution has moved forward from five to ten years compared ! In the United States, the digital penetration in retail has achieved an increase of 11 points, rising from 16% to 27% over this period. Some of the players have been transforming themselves quickly, implementing new tools, re-evaluating their strategies and developing their omni-channel services to consumers, not without influencing consumers behaviours. The crisis is likely to widen the gap between the most mature companies and those suffering from ageing models. In the words of Warren Buffet, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked”. Indeed, the crisis seems to prove that the degree of digital maturity of a company is a significant asset in terms of resilience and the rebound after the crisis could be more difficult for the ones which are further behind in their digital transformation. There is no more room for compromise but it is urgent that companies take action to renew their activity”.



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