Retailers Will Have to Rethink Store Portfolios in the New Age of Remote Work

In the midst of the pandemic, many companies are taking a closer look into their office’s and store’s use of space. Some are considering converting retail spaces to distribution centers because of an increase in online orders. Industry experts believe this philosophy will continue long term and will not be just a temporary fix.

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Remote work is here to stay.

Signet Jewelers operates over 3,300 stores primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry, Piercing Pagoda, and more. Brian Strickland, their vice president of enterprise analytics, stated in an ICSC Connect Virtual Series episode called Optimizing Your Store Deployment Strategy Post COVID-19 that, “It will be interesting to see how retailers, restaurant and service companies start to rethink their properties and store locations that are in areas that are highly dependent on office workers.”

Retailers and restaurant operators likely will seek locations closer to residential areas if office traffic declines, said Dave Huntoon, managing director of site selection services firm Intalytics. “A number of our restaurant clients get a plurality of their business from customers coming from work versus coming from home, and that’s going to have to be reconsidered significantly,” he said.

Companies that operated smoothly as employees worked from home during COVID-19 likely are reexamining their office space needs, Strickland said. “Every company is going to have to look at its spending on office space and pull back. Retailers need to identify those store locations that may be at risk if this does continue going forward.”

Social distancing and online ordering are here to stay, and retailers will look for sites that accommodate drive-thru windows and curbside pickup lanes.

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Sally Beauty’s online sales surged more than 800 percent in the month of May as customers began dyeing their hair at home, and the retailer now wants to use its reopened stores to better serve that surge in online customers. “We don’t know what the customer is going to do on the back end of this,” said Sally Beauty vice president of real estate and construction Mike Smith.

The retailer likely will use its less profitable stores for e-commerce distribution and fulfillment in the future, he said. “We’re seeing our customer move around. We’re going to make some long-term decisions about our stores when she decides what she’s comfortable with.”

The full ICSC Connect Virtual Series episode is available here.


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