• Incremental Change Agency

How businesses can prepare themselves for post COVID-19 lockdown



This is Chris Wilkinson and Lorraine Nicholson.



They are the dynamic duo behind First Retail Group, an award-winning consultancy focused on retail strategy, performance and growth. This is them self isolating, Chris in Oriental Parade, Wellington, and Lorraine in Belmont Domain, Lower Hutt, as part of the Front Door Project – New Zealand.

With many businesses feeling uncertain in light of COVID-19, we wanted to interview them about what reopening looks like in New Zealand post lockdown.

Will it be the same?

“It’s important for businesses to be realistic and prepared for what is ahead in retail. A rapid return to what we know is unlikely. Tomorrow’s marketplace and consumer will be different in values, behaviours, needs and opportunities.” Chris said.

One of the biggest shifts they highlighted was a return to localism. This creates a big opportunity for businesses to refine their offering and work collaboratively with other local businesses to share customers while serving the community. Several City and Regional Councils have already begun developing Love Local campaigns to champion small businesses and keep them front of mind during lockdown.

“There will be a lot of changes in behaviour once the lockdown ends. Businesses are also going to have to shift their delivery. There will be a period of time after this where customers may not feel comfortable dining in or shopping indoors. Councils should consider creating more opportunities for businesses to spill out into public spaces so people can gather while maintaining a comfortable social distance.” Lorraine said.

“Ordering coffee may change as well. Rather than standing in lines, customers may prefer to order online and collect their coffee once it’s ready to avoid congregating with others. Businesses will need to shift their models to accommodate customer comfort and ensure delivery is meeting the market. There will also be a shift in what customers want to purchase. These values are likely to be more family and home centred. Businesses will need to incorporate these values in their product lines and models.” Chris said.

Who should lead?

Regions will need work together to strengthen their local offering and ensure they are resilient. Businesses will need to help each other in order to succeed.

“Youth engagement and innovation will also be critical to recovery. They won’t see the barriers that the older generation will.” Chris said. City Councils can leverage Youth Councils to lead engagement and ensure the voice of the younger generation is heard in terms of rebuilding the economy. For example, many young people want to see a greener economy and these motivations should help inspire businesses to think differently about their brands in the new economy.

Community champions are also needed to work as connectors to progress concepts and help businesses connect with each other.

What should businesses do during lockdown?

During this time there is a lot that businesses can do to get ready for post COVID-19 lockdown. These incremental steps, provided by First Retail Group, include:

  1. Have a mindset for reopening – get in the head space that you will make it work, whatever it takes.

  2. Apply for the wage subsidy to ensure you can retain and continue paying your staff during the lockdown period.

  3. Use this opportunity to create a collaborative relationship with your landlord and suppliers.

  4. Work with your staff on any required training and induction so they are ready to hit the ground running.

  5. Maintain your relevance by staying active on social media. Share stories about what your staff are doing during lockdown, show throw back pictures, which provide nostalgia for your brand, and share what you’re looking forward to once lockdown is over.

  6. Survey your customers to find out what they like about you and what they’d like to see your brand do in the future.

  7. Develop Business and Marketing plans, which take into account the various scenarios which could unfold with the different levels of lockdown and public spending power.

  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, many City and Regional Councils are providing business support services.

  9. Keep in mind that the future success of businesses is going to rely on community. Work collaboratively with others, share customers and help each other succeed. We are all in this together!


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