While retail will continue to evolve in response to the pandemic, some new consumer behaviors are likely to endure, according to Mike George, president and CEO of Qurate Retail. Examples include the surge in digital engagement among consumers and the shift towards home-centered goods, such as cookware and outdoor furnishings.
“We saw a home-centric consumer who was spending a lot of time online, shopping, streaming movies, and TV shows, and maintaining social connections,” said George. “We started to think about how we could speak to her, not so much about selling her something, but engaging her in conversations about what’s going on in the world and how we can be relevant to her.”
George, who is also chairman of the National Retail Federation, spoke on retail trends in a virtual fireside chat with NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay at the 2020 World Retail Congress, held earlier this fall.
Even as economies began reopening this summer, demand for home-centered goods remained stable, he noted. He expects this trend to continue as the pandemic intensifies in the short term and is ultimately brought under control in the long term.
George is encouraged by the rapid expansion of digital in retail during the crisis. “Retailers have taken what was probably a three-year agenda of work to do on digital and collapsed it into a few months,” he said, with stores adding such digital alternatives as mobile ordering or curbside pickup. “These innovations create a universal experience that still has amazing brick-and-mortar experiences at its heart but is fundamentally wrapped in this digital envelope.”
While this is a challenging time for the retail industry, George said he’s proud of the way retailers have pulled together to help small businesses.
“In a world that feels in many ways divided, I think there’s this universal response of wanting to support each other and take care of small businesses in our communities,” George said. “They are the lifeblood of our industry. I think all of us who are in a better position need to do a little extra to keep small businesses vibrant.”
Earlier this year, QVC and HSN collaborated with the NRF Foundation to launch a small business spotlight program to leverage storytelling platforms to shine a light on small businesses. The most recent iteration focused on Black-owned small businesses, as part of Qurate Retail Group’s commitment to continuing to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within our company and in society at large.