As part of our month-long Women in Retail Leadership Days virtual experience, we had an interactive discussion with executives from leading retailers to detail strategies for evolving their businesses to account for shifting consumer behaviors and demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panelists included Corie Barry, CEO, Best Buy; Sharon Leite, CEO, The Vitamin Shoppe; and Christine Currence, CEO and Owner, Badgley Mischka. They discussed a multitude of topics related to operating in today’s “new normal,” including leading remote workforces through a period of crisis; planning for an uncertain holiday shopping season; and more. Here are some key takeaways from the panel.
Best Buy had to pivot its business strategy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company quickly launched curbside pickup in 48 hours, and was one of the first retailers to safely re-introduce shopping in-person back in April with an appointment-only model. Despite the pandemic, Best Buy was able to keep 80 percent of its business in tact from the previous year.
“At the start of the pandemic, we laid out three goals that would guide our decision making,” Barry said. “The first was to protect the safety of our customers and our employees. The second was to protect the employee experience for as long as possible for as many people as possible. And the third was to come out of this not just a vital company, but a vibrant one.”
Barry went on to explain that a main reason why Best Buy was able to pivot successfully was because of the investments the consumer electronics retailer had made up until this point. “We had been investing heavily in our supply chain,” she said. “We had been investing heavily in our digital experiences. And, frankly, we had also been investing heavily in our people, who went through massive amounts of work to try to make that happen.”
Similar to Best Buy, The Vitamin Shoppe’s expert employees were crucial to the business during this unprecedented time. Therefore, it was important for The Vitamin Shoppe to transition the business in a way where employees were still able to communicate with the customer.
“For us, it was absolutely about the health and welfare of our people, and that our people were safe,” Leite said. “We also wanted to make sure that because of our commitment to the community in helping them be well, we wanted to do everything we could to stay essential.”
Leite revealed that ongoing communication throughout this time was really important for The Vitamin Shoppe, both internally and externally. “We did a tremendous amount of personal outreach to ensure that our people were taken care of and safe. And then obviously that impacted the external experience, which is all about keeping our customers well.”
Badgley Mischka, a designer fashion brand known for its special occasion gowns and outfits, needed to rapidly evolve its business during the COVID-19 pandemic since most customers were staying home and not gathering. Currence said the brand adapted by creating a new collection called Luxe Lounge.
“It’s easy going palazzo pants and caftan tops,” Currence said. “Great things with an easy silhouette to wear from a Zoom call to across the street to your neighbors with a martini in your hand.”
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