Primark is one of the UK’s leading budget retail outlets and prior to COVID-19, the business was booming, stores across Europe and the US were teeming with customers and monthly sales were in the region of £650 million (almost N300 billion) monthly. But guess what, with the COVID-19 related lockdown these huge sales nose-dived to zero!! Yes, zero… As a result, their 68,000 out of their 78,000 staff have been placed on compulsory leave with no guarantee of job security post-lockdown.
How did an incredibly profitable retail giant get to this state and what lessons can we learn from this?
- Disrupt Yourself – Primark (and many, many others) have fallen into the dangerous place of sticking with what’s immediately in front of them because, hey, it works. There’s an adage that goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Unfortunately, that adage doesn’t take the current business environment into consideration. Rather you should consistently ask yourself, “what can disrupt my business and how do I respond to it?”. In a space where all your peers and competitors have an economically viable digital presence, shouldn’t you consider the same? Which takes me to my second point.
- Make sure your Social Media presence gives you Economic Value – Our case study Primark has a very robust website and social media channels, but no online store capabilities available. Which means customers will always have to go into a store to make a purchase, which explains their current state. What is your social media strategy? Can you convert you followers, likes and shares to currency? Do you have a strategy and the right platforms to make that possible? As a product/service provider do you have contactless revenue streams?
- Listen to your customers – Many of Primark’s customers had apparently requested the store to create an online store but that never happened. Now sales have tanked to zero, in a period where online sales are booming. Have you asked your customers what they need from your business? And are you ready to act on their feedback?
- Be Nimble – We would all have seen social media messages from businesses that have responded quickly to the current situation whether through online engagement sessions to maintain customer top of mind, quick collaborations with logistics companies to drive fulfilment and the creation of cheap and cheerful online presence.
- Stay Relevant – Zoom saw a massive increase in its subscriber base and revenues as most of the world migrated to online engagement platforms. Retailers and essential service providers with a digital presence and fulfilment capacity are also seeing a boom in business. Primark is promoting a massive post-lockdown sale to hopefully kickstart a business.
With all that’s going on in the world, how are you tweaking your model and operations to stay relevant in your industry? Do you send emails to your customers to stay in touch? How about offering a free online training session to your customers in an area that’s relevant to them? There are many ways to ensure your customers stay with you through the crisis.
This is not the end of the world, but it is the end of doing things the way you’ve previously done them. Your mission may remain the same, but your methods definitely have to change.