Analysis: Never waste a crisis – how coronavirus galvanised retail

Boots social distance beauty hall

In the space of a few months, Britain and its retailers have been plunged into a crisis the scale of which few would ever have imagined.

M&S chair Archie Norman made use of a famous saying in the retailer’s annual report last week – “never let a good crisis go to waste”. During the pandemic, retailers have put those words into practice.

The coronavirus outbreak may have left head offices deserted, stores put into hibernation en masse and customers staying at home under lockdown restrictions unprecedented in peacetime, but retailers have reacted with an agility that runs through every aspect of their businesses.

HQ staff adopted new technologies, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, to work virtually with other team members and shops – the ones still open, anyway – became overnight centres of crisis management, and their managers crash-course experts in the ‘new normal’ of screens and social distancing.

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