“Shopping, consumption, control and the future of retail” was the theme of an exclusive, moderated conversation between Professor of Marketing Selin Atalay and Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, CEO of s.Oliver and member of the Board of Trustees of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, at the business school last week. Angelika Werner, Vice President Strategic Relations, and Carsten Vogel, Development Director, chaired the discussion.
Following renewed lockdown measures in Germany, all restaurants, bars, cafés and retail shops had to close their doors in December 2020 for the second time since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic one year ago. Delivery services and hybrid concepts such as Click & Collect and Click & Meet are intended to encourage consumers to continue buying from high-street restaurants and shops, and thus support restaurateurs and retailers. In the meantime, the business of online retail outlets is booming. To what extent has the pandemic changed consumer behaviour? What will ‘shopping’ and consequently pedestrian zones, shopping centres and our city centres look like after the pandemic?
Marketing professor and psychologist, Selin Atalay, studies factors that influence consumer decisions and messages that influence buyers' behaviour. At the event, she presented her research on the impact of people's experience of “control” during purchasing decisions, especially in times of crisis. “Consumer behaviour is emotionally driven and consumers' circumstances and needs influence their buying behaviour. Beyond the lockdown, the Corona pandemic has caused profound change,” says Professor Atalay. “People will reconsider the ways in which they enjoy visiting restaurants, bars and shopping venues. Some will still be afraid of the virus, while others will return quickly for in-person shopping, a welcome distraction from the lockdown routine. The ‘experiences’ offered by the retail sector will be crucial. The social aspect or ‘belongingness’, including connecting with people and meeting friends, will also be a key driver for the return to normal. Those who were already using both online and physical shops before the lockdowns will help to revive city centres swiftly. But older demographics who first relied on online shopping during the Corona crisis and realised its benefits may not visit retail shops again anytime soon.”
“Some of the developments triggered by the lockdowns are irreversible, in particular in cities where both the retail and hospitatility sectors as well as public spaces already struggled to attract visitors. For the retail industry to open its doors, we need a plan. It needs to be reliable both for us as businesses and for those who would like to return to shops as soon as possible. From a hygiene and social distancing point of view, we are prepared “, says Claus-Dietrich Lahrs. “We do have an online shop too and thankfully, clients continue to shop with us. They remain interested in new collections and in what is going on in the fashion industry. However, online shopping does not replace that ‘moment of discovery’ in the store. I am optimistic that ‘pent-up’ demand for such moments definitely exists. The re-opening is an undertaking, and we need to be prepared for our customers. The revitalisation of our inner cities and high streets will take time. It is not going to happen over night.”