Onward … And What Awaits!
As many of you can guesstimate… over the course of the last 60 days, I actually did not stay locked down.
Instead, I have ventured out and talked with folks in grocery stores, house & home stores, pharmacies, gas stations and even while in drive-thru lanes at fast food joints and bank tellers.
I have also been issuing daily updates on COVID19 cases in the U.S. In addition to a number of newspapers carrying the daily updates, I have built a nice following that receives direct updates.
People are sharing interesting commentary about what they see happening moving future forward.
Two blog entries prior, I noted that COVID19 could not overtake key market drivers like Millennials establishing their homesteads and bearing kids, Boomers moving into full retirement and Zoomers overtaking college campuses.
From my more than 250 one-on-one interviews and a set of about a dozen digital round-table dialogues, here are some key COVID19 outcomes we will see impact the marketplace over the course of the next 2–3 or more years…
Work-From-Home, Less Business Travel & More Business Networking Groups
Many individuals in C-level management are evaluating how to cut costs and many tech-geeks, sales reps and middle-level managers are wondering if they are ready to make those hour-long, one-way commutes into the office each day.
There are also operational teams in the midst of reporting how work-from-home mandates have affected the checkpoints of operational effectiveness.
And the surprises are not too difficult to figure out.
According to a number of articles published in NY Times and WSJ, there has been limited negative effect and actually some positive results.
Will the corporate offices disappear and all employees work virtual moving forward?
No, but more companies will offer flexibility and office spaces are likely to become smaller.
There are some predictions that community gathering spaces complete with hammocks, running machines and staffed coffee bars will go by the wayside.
There are many predictions that business travel that involves airline and hotel bookings will diminish too.
As I have come to observe, the yin-yang counter-balance model of trends is smack on target.
Just as much as individuals will work from offsite locations, the same individuals will seek more connection with co-workers and peers.
The digital geeks working remotely are the same social media freaks constantly texting others.
Watch how more and more groups launch digital get-togethers as well as onsite interaction. While gathering spaces in corporate headquarters will disappear, watch as more corporate retreat space and “club houses” are birthed.
Family Bonding Time, Home Cooking & Home Delivery
As a Baby Boomer raised by European immigrant family members, I can fondly remember cooking extended family meals with my grandmother, Friday night card games and mid-afternoon coffee breaks complete with home-made cookies and freshly perked coffee.
All of that is coming back and will likely become a new set of tradition among Millennial and GenXer families. Many will believe it is something that they have initiated and newly brought to life.
Believe it or not, but milk delivery is coming back — and not from Amazon, but local dairies and their staff.
A news story on HLN featured local grocery stores delivering locally rooted meats and free-range sausages, fresh local herbs and vegetables, locally roasted coffees and locally brewed organic malts and beers.
Card games are coming back and so are betting chips.
Jigsaw puzzles are hot now too. If you do not believe me, check out your local Target stores — although just like toilet paper rolls, you might have difficulty finding 500 piece-plus puzzles.
All of these new ways of bonding and experiencing a sense of connection with the local community are not about to disappear any time soon.
Walls Are Coming Back
There’s the historical Great Wall of China and whether you like it or not, the Mexican Border Wall is emerging now too.
Back before COVID19 hit, the open floor plan was the #1 driver of home design. Tearing down walls and building new homes with open space to multi-task was the calling of designers across the U.S. and abroad too.
That open-space fulfilled its calling.
Shoot, time spent together in the homes was limited to maybe a couple of hours a few days a week.
The parents worked 24/7 and traveled near and far. The kids were hanging at the local coffee houses, co-studying together at a friend’s house or playing group sports together at one of the fields in the ‘hood.
As I illustrated earlier, the office space was communal. Management layers were invisible. Work time was blended with social time.
And moving forward, that model has changed.
Open space is nice if the space together happens within limited time blocks. But open space does not work if it attempts to serve folks 24/7.
Families need family rooms, parents need home offices and kids need game rooms and TV rooms.
Even dining rooms are coming back. Kitchens are nice places to dine when most of the food is pre-prepared and simply warmed up, but kitchens are not nice when the dinners are all made from scratch.
HGTV has a new show that I encourage all to watch that runs on Sunday nights called “House in a Hurry.” The real-time filmed show follows families that are forced to find a home to buy in less than 48 hours.
The show had been produced in the last 3–4 months.
Because the show is unscripted, there is interesting commentary about home space. You watch and see just how much the grand open space fits with the post-COVID19 mindset.
As businesses downsize space, more walls will go up too. Shoot, the walls are there to protect the workforce from any new COVID19 outbreaks sparked by not honoring the 6 feet distancing mandate!
The Return of Retail
I am writing this blog post from my Farm House in Athens Georgia. I took a break from work just after lunch today and ventured out to the local shopping centers.
I was shocked at just how many individuals were out shopping!
Today is the 20th of May.
This past Friday, more Georgia retail and dining space opened up and there is no question, folks have been pent-up way too long and have to get out and re-engage.
There are large brands like JCPenny, Gymboree, Pier 1, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus filing Chapter 11. These are all brands that have had difficulty staying afloat a good number of years before COVID19. The closing of the doors is long over-due.
Many restaurants — large chains like Logan’s Roadhouse, Sonic Drive-Ins and Old Chicago and many, many individual, locally-owned restaurants — are closing their doors.
Does this signal an end to malls and shopping strip centers?
What is very easy to forget… and Lord the media does it daily … we are not experiencing an economic recession, but instead an economic-fasting initiated by the government.
As some retail finally closes the doors and others close their doors because they simply could not financially ride out a block in the flow of sales, watch how many new ventures start shortly to emerge.
In fact, there is some talk among some of my entrepreneurial peers that retail might become more hot on Wall Street than new digital ventures.
Retail churns revenue and earnings at a much faster pace than digital start-ups!
And watch for some interesting changes.
There will be more space allocation for drive thru and take-out options. Now does that sound retro or what!
There will be more outdoor space. As I have shared in the blog posts before, watch as roofs are lifted from malls. You will see more allocation of park-space or breathing space… literally.
You see the return of the pop-ups in planned space and pop-ups on street corners.
Just as I shared that walls will be coming back, large retail space dedicated to the department stores of the past will get divided up and we will see the return of local talent co-sharing space with larger retailers.
And the digital retail world?
No question that Amazon has filled a gap during COVID19. While some individuals were too scared to leave their homes, many retail options were closed.
Amazon and a couple others were within safe reach to fill a gap.
But the digital shopping world will still face time and experiential barriers that the in-person retail world provides.
A Personal Note…
As many of you know, EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. is officially based in Athens, Georgia and operates out of what I call the “Farm House.”
Athens is known for the University of Georgia as well as great bands like REM and the B-52s.
In addition to our Athens location, we also have leased space in Atlanta.
When I started EXPERIENCE back in 2003, many of our clients were based in Atlanta or nearby communities. Today, we work with clients across North America with only a few based in Atlanta.
When I post the next blog toward the end of June, we will have consolidated our operations in Athens and closed down our space in Atlanta.
Not only do times change… but what we experience is the here and now is a snapshot of a marketplace that is fluid and constantly going through change.
As Howard Schultz said in the evolution of Starbucks… Onward!