How COVID-19 Is Changing Retail Displays

The pandemic has had some pretty dramatic effects on how consumers shop, and as a result, it’s changing the way that brands and designers need to think about retail displays. Since many industry leaders are predicting that new shopping behaviors that have come from the pandemic could be permanent, it will be important for brands to understand how new trends and needs in retail display merchandising can help them to most effectively meet their goals.


Social Distancing Can Mean Smaller Displays

Many stores have been tweaking their layouts throughout the pandemic to accommodate six feet of space between shoppers. According to IRI, one way that retailers have been making room is by downsizing and removing displays altogether, with retailers eliminating an average of five displays per store. “Retailers are allocating prime real estate only to the ‘home run’ items that promise dividends on every inch of display,” the market research company reports.

Smaller displays also mean that designers will have to do more with less, communicating vital product information on displays that might be smaller than what they’re used to working with. Additionally, designers and brands will need to come to an understanding about new consumer priorities and how that can affect display design. For example, a display for a convenience product probably should not devote a lot of space to “on the go” messaging. Instead, it would be a better use of limited space to draw attention to callouts and product features that align with new trends and consumers’ shifting needs in the pandemic.


Retailers are Directing Shoppers with New Signage

Many stores have introduced wayfinding materials into their aisles to direct shoppers to walk in a single direction. Retailers like Walmart, Acme, and Kroger implemented this to help with social distancing, and Giant announced in April that they would reconsider their shelving and display fixture merchandising strategies with social distancing in mind. This could have an impact on the order and flow of grocery trips, and brands may need to rethink the way that their in-store displays help or interrupt the shopper as they navigate the store using this new signage.


Convenience Stores are Launching Health-Focused Displays

Convenience stores have not historically been the most likely place for consumers to seek out health or cleaning products. However, demand for these kinds of goods has skyrocketed in the pandemic to the point where retailers in the convenience channel have started featuring displays with PPE like masks, latex gloves, cleaning wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizers. Products in this category have seen some of the largest growth during the pandemic across the board with all channels, but it’s especially noteworthy in channels like convenience stores where they weren’t really featured at all pre-pandemic.


The Pandemic is Fueling a Rise in eCommerce

Thanks to COVID-19, consumers are doing their grocery shopping online now more than ever before – and they will probably continue to do so after the pandemic is over. This has worked out very well for some brands, but other brands that rely heavily on retail displays to drive sales – such as impulse purchases – will need to develop plans that integrate ecommerce with their in-store retail display campaigns.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things about shopper behavior and retailer strategies, including the size, quantity, and content of in-store displays. By understanding how the needs of retailers and shoppers are changing, designers and brands can work together to make sure that they are producing displays that deliver the best possible results.

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