Wave 1: Hoarding. We are in the middle of Wave 1, (and perhaps starting Wave 2) which involves the hoarding of products and the abundance of needs from consumers driven by both fear and the reality of the crisis
Wave 2: The “Almost” Normal. As the hoarding begins to abate (enough of the toilet paper stocking up, people!), grocery retail is beginning to emerge to a steady state with some extraordinary new conditions. Special hours for seniors (and now, in a wonderful addition, first responders), the monitoring of customer counts, appropriate social distancing at the service counters and checkouts etc., are becoming commonplace. But so are the temporary closures of salad bars and hot and cold food bars and the replacement of bulk and single-serve items with pre-packaged as “contactless” service becomes entrenched in our collective vocabularies.
Wave 3: Recession. Sadly, the economic data will soon show us that we have quickly entered into a recession as unemployment spikes and GDP craters. Expect to see big increases in private-label sales as consumers trade down and even greater growth in price-oriented formats (good news for the Costco, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Aldi of the world) but also an opportunity for conventional retailers to proactively respond by offering value early.
Wave 4: The New, New Normal. When all of this is finally behind us, what does steady-state retail look like a few years from now? Great disruptions (and a pandemic certainly qualifies) tend to act as an accelerator for a number of latent trends that were already in the market. E-commerce in grocery likely scales at a much faster rate. But in responding to the value component, ordering online and picking up in store offers a more value-driven (and safer) way to deliver product. Contactless experiences might become the norm. Expect a huge increase in touch-free experiences (Apple Pay and the like) and a decrease in cash transactions.