Physical store operators have had to manage the reopening of shuttered stores — and then scramble to find enough employees to adequately staff those stores in a suddenly tight labor market. At the same time, the ecommerce surge generated by the pandemic has brought digital-store alignment to the forefront of retailers’ top store ops challenges. Consumer (and staff) concerns about in-store safety and hygiene spurred by the recent rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, along with varying local mask and vaccination mandates, continue to complicate nearly every aspect of physical retail operations.
The 10th annual Retail TouchPoints Store Operations Benchmark Survey reveals retailers’ resilience in the face of these challenges, along with the multiple ways they are using technology solutions and process changes to conquer them.
Key findings include:
- Just over half (52%) of retailers closed some or all of their stores due to the pandemic, but 45% had reopened the majority of their store fleet by the end of 2020.
- Labor hours devoted to store-based fulfillment, including BOPIS, curbside pickup and ship-from-store, increased in 2021 for 60% of respondents.
- More than one-quarter (27%) of retailers operate cashierless/unattended stores, representing a remarkable adoption rate for technology that has been commercially available for only the last several years.
- Retailers’ use of augmented reality/virtual reality jumped nearly 70% in 2021 compared to 2020: 22% of retailers are using AR/VR solutions in their stores this year, compared to just 13% in 2020. Another 23% of retailers are planning to add the tech within the next 12 months.