Comment: Covid 19 coronavirus – Retail expert predicts splurge ‘bigger than Black Friday’ after lockdown eventually ends

The Government’s announcement today confirmed that bars and shops would remain closed under level three conditions, but a drop to the restrictions would mark a big step toward the end of the lockdown.

If New Zealand can hold the course, we could soon see a stage return to normality, levelling down from level four to one.

Provided we don’t take any backwards steps, this will lead to a steady build in pent-up consumerism.

The longer stores remain closed, the more this will grow.

So what will people do once we eventually get out of the lockdown?

Once we’ve got the first few items ticked off our post lockdown retail checklist (some new clothes or a drink at your local pub, perhaps), what does the “new normal” look like?

There’s no shortage of experts and opinion pieces to tell you. My unscientific analysis of these would be they are 70 per cent negative on the likelihood of “post-lockdown splurge” and 30 per cent positive.

But let’s not underestimate the splurge – it will be bigger than Black Friday.

Unlike that “one-day” event which is a planned retail bonanza with carefully calculated margins on products ordered in for the event, many retailers will be sitting on too much stock after the lockdown (especially summer and autumn apparel).

They are going to want to shift that fast because they will have a month’s worth of containers to empty and store and then supply to stores with no space.

We will see real deep cuts and it should be a bargain hunter’s dream, and not for a day but for weeks as this is worked through the system.

Kiwis spent nearly $9 billion in the six weeks to Christmas last year, and while we won’t see that, we may see “Christmas lite” which will be a shot in the arm for retail.

Not everyone is pre-ordained to lose out in the post-Covid consumer world. In fact, all the signs are that brands that play it right could do really well, provided they have been able to manage through lockdown. It’s very sad to hear about Burger King this week, and Bauer last week; both brands which people love but maybe didn’t support enough. So, how might brands win post lockdown?

Eye on the media 

TV viewing is way up. The spike in peak time TV watching will not immediately change (it’s up 54 per cent).

It’s a great time to tell your story on TV and across other traditional channels.

Brands that use times like this to be more active across media channels and one-to-one communications are likely to win. Potential recessions are great times to spend on marketing and advertising and stand out. Bauer’s closing – potentially killing 80 per cent of New Zealand magazines – means their audience is going to turn to something – also a big opportunity for remaining publishers like NZME to offer deeper NZ content and monetise it.

Cleanliness a big deal 

There will be a rise in consumer expectation of hygiene. Whether it’s contactless payment, public transport and buses, trying on clothes, fast food places, cinemas, consumers will expect to be kept safe.

Ankur Pahwa, EY India’s e-commerce and consumer internet leader reckons consumers “will be willing to pay more for it, too”.

Obsession with hygiene will be at its most significant in the coming weeks and months.

Winners will be FMCG manufacturers of cleaning products, establishments, operations and services that evidently deliver a clean, hygienic safe environment. Opportunity springs for homegrown Kiwi brands that offer products and solutions. There will also be other opportunities, especially in the organic environmentally conscious space that already makes us feel better about ourselves and our connection with New Zealand.

For people looking to press the reset button post-lockdown, the fast-fashion opportunity of ditching old wardrobes, and starting totally fresh (especially if there are big sales) will be hard to resist.

Careful does it 

During lockdown, seeing how brands have promoted has been fascinating.

Gone are the toxic loud retail shouty ads. I’ve been struck by the shift in tone, and the attempt by some brands to really empathise with consumers over this time – all one big team.

Yes, it’s great that many brands felt compelled to issue their Covid 19 email, mostly with little to say, but the more imaginative brands have empathised, given us inspiration, and taken our feedback and adapted.

Modesty prevents me from mentioning the brands I’ve helped, but it has been a privilege to participate in communications designed to make it easier for NZ at this time; we’ve seen open rates and feedback that are way above the norm.

What does that mean post lockdown? Brands that continue with this empathy are likely to carry forward this spirit of togetherness we are feeling, and prosper through developing a stronger emotional connection with consumers; we’ve seen clear evidence that consumers welcome genuine value and connection. Brands that start screaming price and discount and nothing else, well just go and stand in the corner for a bit would you; it’s not too late to fix your comms approach going forward.

Kiwi as 

Economic challenges often bring focus to supporting local made, and this period is unique because we can’t go overseas and spend.

After World War II, both Germany and Japan built very powerful “made in” brands, which helped rebuild their economies locally and globally.

Periodically, New Zealand has had a focus on this, with The New Zealand Way in the 90s, and Buy Kiwi Made a decade or so later.

Brands that are not just made here, but connect with us because they are Kiwi, can do well – and on the global market, our strong brand will see our food, fashion, agritech or Air New Zealand all have opportunities.

We are clean, green, healthy, innovative; what more should we be in a post-Covid world? On current tracking, we are going to be a massive success story of avoiding the worst of Covid-19, another testament to what makes this country unique.

If the country allows, people are going to want to invest in being in New Zealand, not just buying from us; like Troy Bowker’s suggestion that we offer foreign high net-worth individuals a New Zealand visa in return for investing at least $50 million each here to create jobs. That’s the thinking we need.

Have we really changed? 

Consumer behaviour science tells us that behavioural change takes more than a few weeks, so we can quite easily slip back into pre-Covid behaviours.

However, the ongoing and staged return to” normal” may mean that most people will never again touch a keypad without sanitising their hands, or eat fruit without washing it first.

And they may all be more receptive to brands that make them feel reassured, safe and connected as well as brands that connect with our Kiwi identity.

One thing’s for sure, the Kiwi spirit has been strong these last weeks, and if we all keep that going then we will be unbeatable.

– Ben Goodale is a veteran adman and CEO of strategic marketing agency Quantum Jump.