21 May 2020

How the coronavirus is affecting off-price

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An interview with Tricia Barglof, CEM, Executive Director of the OFFPRICE Show
Q: How has the coronavirus affected the off-price community?
A: In the off-price sector, COVID-19 has been damaging to retailers and exhibitors alike, and our hearts go out to all those affected. We’ve heard troubling accounts of off-price sellers forced to close their warehouses, unable to move product for weeks, and even losing staff members to the virus. For buyers, many have been forced to temporarily shutter, while others are not sure when or if they’ll be able to re-open. 
Through all of the challenges and uncertainty, there has been bright spots along the way. Many of our exhibitors have been able to adjust their production strategies and manufacture face masks, hand sanitizer, and other PPE that is so desperately needed. Many retailers have gone above and beyond to shift their businesses online, creatively continue selling through curbside pickup, social media or other platforms, and use the CARES Act to get their teams back to business as safely and quickly as possible. Exhibitors and buyers alike have found ways to give back to their local community by donating supplies and food to those who need it most.
Q: What does the state of off-price look like, as stores begin to re-open?
A: Over the last week, we’ve seen many retailers cautiously begin to open their doors, all while implementing new health policies and social distancing measures.  While many retailer businesses were greatly affected by the coronavirus, the sales and regular operations of other ecommerce sellers or retailers selling perishable food or other essential items were less disrupted by the pandemic. 
Major retailers like B2 Outlets and Discount Fashion Warehouse were forced to close or partially closed many locations, and will now need to work through unloading spring merchandise that didn’t have much shelf time before COVID-19 struck. By now, most shoppers are turning to summer buying and before we know it, back-to-school and holiday programs will hit stores in July.
As we begin to see Safer at Home orders lifted across the country, we believe off-price merchandise will continue to be a game-changing strategy for all types of buyers. With many consumers cautiously moving forward, getting back to work, and re-entering storefronts, sales of competitively-priced apparel, footwear, and accessories will surge during this year of uncertainty.
Q: Are off-price exhibitors able to ship?
A: Yes! You might be surprised to see how many OFFPRICE Show exhibitors are currently able to ship merchandise in our full online list. There’s still a misconception that all warehouses and shipyards are closed, which is not the case. 
Most OFFPRICE vendors sell immediate goods—which means they are ready to ship and often arrive within a matter of 2-3 weeks. This short turnaround is especially attractive for retailers who are experiencing a disruption in the supply chain.
During this challenging time, it’s no surprise that many retailers simply want to stick with the sellers they know and trust. But if those sellers aren’t able to keep your business moving forward, now may be the perfect opportunity to test a new exhibitor. If there was ever a time to try something new or invest in a new strategy—2020 is it!
Q: How are retailers going to have to adjust to a “new normal?”
A: What’s normal seems to be changing every day, doesn’t it? If they haven’t already, retailers are going to have to figure out how to adjust their in-store experience. Remember a time when we used to strategize how to keep shoppers in-store for extended periods of time? Now we’re discussing how to sanitize fitting rooms, widen aisles, invest in touch-less transactions, and disinfect hard surfaces. 
Besides physical changes to the shopping environment, retailers need to find ways to stay engaged with consumers not yet comfortable with in-store shopping. We’re seeing more and more retailers host Instagram or Facebook Live shopping events, launching online stores, or promoting new curbside pickup. Customers are still out and browsing, but most are still found through screen time.
Now more than ever, retail stores need to be hybrid experiences, incorporating brick-and-mortar and e-commerce options. At OFFPRICE, we’re investing in a similar strategy to include a virtual component to our in-person trade show, to help meet people where they feel most comfortable. 
Q: How will COVID-19 affect the OFFPRICE Show in 2020?
A: The virtual component to our trade show will give exhibitors the opportunity to post their merchandise online, and retailers can message or video chat sellers directly through the platform. We can also share scheduled video sessions and showcase key categories found at OFFPRICE Show.
Of course, the best way to experience OFFPRICE is still in-person. But we realize that travel may not be feasible for everyone due to the coronavirus. We’re hoping to announce more details about this virtual component in the coming weeks!


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