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On the day when we are going to be presented with a route out of lockdown, how many of the changes we have seen during the past 12 months continue throughout 2021? Many of us had hoped we would be well out the other side of the pandemic by now, but despite the vaccinations seemingly proceeding well, I think the best strategy for retailers is to plan for a 2021 similar to the last year. Yes, lockdown will ease as we move into the summer, but customer behaviour will take a long time, if ever, to be back to how it was in 2019.
People have spent more time in around their homes, and many have enjoyed it. They have enjoyed cooking from scratch at home and many will continue to do this. Some of us have enjoyed having restaurant-quality meals delivered to our door to be enjoyed with wine, and without the hassle of nominating a driver or organising a cab and some will continue with this. And many, many more have enjoyed having their groceries, drinks and treats delivered to their home and they will most certainly continue to do that.
So, in my mind, it is more about what we continue to do better in 2021 that we started in 2020 rather than looking for everything reverting to ‘normal’. 2021 is about offering superlative service to your customers. It is about great websites with products and meal solutions and complete meals that ping off the page. It is about home deliveries and click and collect services that customers will still want even when more of them are back in their offices.
Of course, we still need to be aware of changing food trends and stock what our customers want. Plant-based meals will become even bigger this year, as more people react against agricultural practices that are damaging to the planet. Variety is the spice of life and African (North and West), Asian (Vietnamese and traditional South Indian), and maybe even Russian and Eastern European cuisine offer a difference. There are British suppliers of these types of products so no need to run the gauntlet of import difficulties following Brexit. Many people still won’t be able to go outside the UK on holiday this year, so cooking and enjoying different food is important to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of your business.
Let’s just hope that enough people want to go out to eat when permissible to maintain the many excellent eateries we have in the UK. I look forward to seeing some of you there.