COVID restrictions are lifting in many areas throughout the United States. And while this is a great thing for business, sidewalks, and our sanity, there is still a pressing need to take precaution, mask up, and socially distance. How are retailers like restaurants, boutiques, and grocery stores navigating the post-pandemic, in-person shopping scene?
If you’re creative and innovative enough, you just might be able to change re-entry into opportunity. Thoughtful, interesting uses of graphics and signage in commercial spaces, markets, and places that are seeing an increasing amount of foot traffic are both drawing customers in, and instructing those customers on how to stay safe and feel comfortable as they shop.
From the simple sneeze guard to the illuminated halo sign to the vinyl checkstand wrap, retailers are creating the new space for commerce in the era of the vaccine. Let’s take a look at some of the more successful strategies in shopping and signage, some classic case studies that pre-date COVID yet have something to say about re-entry, and future plans for retailers moving through 2021.
The New In-Store Experience
Once upon a time, there was this thing called the “in-store experience.” In days of yore, wily shoppers from all their clans used to venture into markets, and stores, and even ancient relics referred to as “malls” to procure goods, try on clothing, chat with other clan members, and sip on slushies. It was a scene to behold, and a scene that was elevated to even more astounding heights via the “in-store experience.”
Through the foggy mists of COVID times, you may recall the in-store experience as a fun and delightful thing — or as the truly remarkable retailing innovation it was to become. Those who ventured into Restoration Hardware were not entering a store, but a “gallery.” The truly adventurous could actually fish in the Bass Pro Shop pond. And the Apple Store…well, the Apple Store simply defies explanation. Let’s just agree that the Apple Store is indeed an experience.
What does the in-store experience mean in vaccinated times? One gigantic sneeze guard circling the Bass Pro fishin’ hole? A friendly robot circulating around the store, happily doling out masks to the unadorned? Digital screens prompting passersby to keep a social distance, until of course, it’s time to check-out?
I exaggerate. Because it’s fun. But it’s also a window into the ways business and retailers are using signage, graphics, and yes, sneeze guards, in a post-pandemic era where shopping is encouraged, promoted, and kept safe.
The Case for True Religion
Pre-COVID, jeans retailer True Religion made a name for themselves not just because of their clothing, but also because of their stores. In particular, their graphics and signage.
Those familiar with True Religion know the look of their storefront, which is all about the sign. The backlit, halo-illuminated treatment is mesmerizing, alluring, and absolutely synonymous with the brand. The sign alone has the power to draw people in, and the printed graphics within the store echo the brand, the brand’s iconography, and the brand’s palette. As a retailer that clearly understands the effect signage and graphics can have on customers, it will be interesting to see how True Religion evolves its look during vaccine times and into the post-COVID era.
Take A Note from Tilly’s
Tillys was in trouble. After riding a retail high on surf and skate apparel during the 1980s and into the new millennium, the staple mall store found itself in serious need of a facelift as a way to reintroduce themselves to customers — and to welcome potential new customers into stores to shop for what remained an exceptional line of clothing, shoes, and accessories.
The answer? Graphics. By simply refreshing printed graphics throughout stores with interesting new looks, colors, fonts, and formats, customers woke back up to the brand, and started coming back to the stores in droves. Tillys will be another brand to watch for as we reemerge from our COVID caves.
The Future of Retail
How will retail rise back up after the pandemic passes? American retailers in particular have an amazing knack to develop incredibly innovative — and lucrative — marketing strategies around tough times and commercial disruptions. What will Apple, and Nike, and Walmart have to say about shopping in the era of the vaccine?
I for one will be very interested to find out. After all, those fish in the Bass Pro Shop pond aren’t gonna hook themselves.
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