As Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.” Historically, the best time to innovate is during periods of economic uncertainty. And now– more than ever– is the chance for retail to define business innovation.
Between plans to repurpose malls to entertainment venues or student housing and talks of department store bankruptcies, now is the time for direct-to-consumer brands to shine with the help of their communities.
The brands that are surviving in this new retail climate realize that not only is the online experience critical — and mostly where they originated — but also the physical customer experience is vital to their overall long term success. It’s Amazon opening up bookstores and Amazon Go grocery stores. It’s Apple and telecom chains expanding beyond just selling technology. And it’s Warby Parker understanding that their continued success has been due, in part, to the in-person customer data they collect from face-to-face interactions with their customers. When communities rebuild, the decisions made today will change the fabric of their communities for many years to come.
Imagine what redefining retail in communities will look like. There’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach out to help revitalize struggling downtown areas. Building upon a thriving business district’s rents and occupancy, retail and restaurants can once again become a destination. I challenge communities to be proactive and incentivize retail brands to be innovative and daring. Together, it’s a win-win.