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Retail Pro Says Giants Like Amazon, Walmart Will Prevail After Coronavirus: 'It's Not Fair'

May 13, 2020 1:45 pm
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Retail Pro Says Giants Like Amazon, Walmart Will Prevail After Coronavirus: 'It's Not Fair'

Jefferies analysts recently visited a Best Buy Co Inc (NYSE:BBY) store and left with a positive impression of the retail's in-store appointment process.

Retail expert Kristin Bentz isn't as bullish on the future of shopping.

Jefferies: 'A Treat'

Jefferies analysts said in a May 6 note that Best Buy's personalized concierge-like service was "a treat," as they were given personalized and undivided attention. The retailer gave complimentary face masks and gloves, going above and beyond government guidelines.

"We think employee/customer care will pay dividends long-term," according to Jefferies. 

Related Link: Why LVMH, Kering Are Well-Positioned For Recovery, 'Revenge Buying' At Hermes

Bentz: Consumers In Denial

Most consumers are "in denial" and erroneously believe the retail universe will return to how it was prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, KB Advisory Group's Kristin Bentz told Benzinga in an e-mail.

The denial could be a function of millions of consumers living in states less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as opposed to those in the area who are living through the trauma going on in their backyards.

Once shopping resumes nationwide, the new retail experience will be "devoid of any joy or normalcy," Bentz said. 

Instead of consumers focusing on merchandising and product assortment, a contactless experience "will become the new normal," Bentz said. The concept of retail therapy has now "vanished quicker than Carrie Bradshaw's last cigarette."

Retailers can focus on personal shopping and appointment viewing, and luxury players could fare better than others, she said.

In the absence of volume, foot traffic and experiential experiences, it's a question of how long retailers can afford to burn cash until retail returns to normal, Bentz said — if it ever does.

The WALMAZON Economy

The future of retail is likely to consist of only "huge nimble" players with large enough cash reserves and solid enough supply chains to survive the coronavirus challenge, Bentz said.

Local small businesses or retailers lack the financial resources to adapt to new health and safety requirements, she said.

Even those that are able to adapt may not find it financially worth it because they will then be forced to limit foot traffic to the point where it's not possible to turn a profit, Bentz said. This will create a "land grab" opportunity for a handful of companies, most notably Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT), Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), she said.

Other companies set to dominate the landscape include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG), Lululemon Athletica Inc (NASDAQ:LULU), Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), in her view. 

"The big players here are extremely well-positioned," she said. "And no. It's not fair."

Related Link: Is The Coronavirus An 'Existential Threat' For Retailers?

Delivery Options

The restaurant industry was thrown a lifeline to help ease the financial burden of quarantine through third-party delivery platforms. The retail industry is unlikely to benefit from a similar service.

Uber Technologies Inc (NYSE:UBER) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in late 2019 that its food delivery platform can be extended to "essentially every single local retailer" and consumers can receive their purchases in under 30 minutes. Yet Bentz isn't convinced this is something the consumers even want in the first place.

"Do we really need Uber delivery of Macy's or Kohl's or J C Penney or all these other 'death's door retailers' to stay a proper 6 feet away from the world?" Bentz said. "My guess is no. I'll stick to Amazon Prime."

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