Editor’s Note: Retailers need to be ready if an economic slowdown is around the corner

BY Seth Mendelson

Retail has proved it can thrive during the strong economy of the last five years. Can the industry do the same during the economic slowdown that some said may be right around the corner?

Though 2019 may offer more of the same for retailers and the economy in general, some industry officials who say they are in the know claim that there are increasing signs, including a tanking stock market, that the superheated economy may have recently peaked.

A recession, they said, may be in the offering in the next 12-to-18 months. Some said the coming slowdown will be caused by a number of factors — international trade wars, commodity prices, employment issues, and the simple fact that all bull markets have life spans.

Always at the forefront of economic fortunes, mass retailers should be planning for the next recession and what they need to do to keep consumers, who have been flush with money and optimism over the last few years, coming through the doors when that optimism and spending start to fade.

As we’ve discussed many times here before, retailers must be willing to change in order to stay relevant with a fickle consumer base. That starts with having attractive and convenient stores. Good times or bad, consumers will visit the retail outlet that makes the most sense to them, as long as these stores offer a friendly and safe environment, good pricing and the right assortment of products.

But it also takes thinking outside the box to separate yourself from the competition. There is no doubt that all three of the national drug store chains are taking steps to make themselves unique in the retail world. They each are trying to become health services alternatives for consumers, hoping that this will lead even more shoppers to use their services in the future.

Walmart is doing the same thing, paying a lot of attention to its in-store experience, while gobbling up digital retail companies in a direct attack on Amazon — its main competitor these days. The strategy, it appears, is to buy up so much of the digital retail world that some of these companies will play out successfully.

There is more that needs to be done, including making sure that the sales team is up to snuff in terms of being able to educate the consumer in-store.

No one is wishing for an economic slowdown, but we all need to be prepared for it when it comes. That preparation should have started months ago. Playing catch up now would not be a bad thing.


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