COVID-19 Changed Everyone, Everything, Everywhere
COVID-19 Changed Everyone, Everything, Everywhere
The pre-pandemic strategic focus across organisations highlighted the goal of thriving through sales revenue, expansion, maximising the bottom-line and beating the competition to gain market share, as the ultimate definition of success for companies. Underpinned by consumer marketing and operational efficiencies. Since the COVID-19 crisis a new narrative has emerged. Michael Smollan, Chief Growth & Innovation Officer examines how COVID-19 has changed the thinking of businesses and what this means for the future.

Behavioural Shifts

Looking back on the lessons learnt as we pave a new post pandemic path, this crisis at a fundamental level, has forced us at best to redefine our place in the world and at worst, expose our flaws. It has indicated that promoting community is the single highest priority and the needs of employees and consumers must be recognised at a deep human level.

It has shown us who is essential within our society and how these groups have been neglected.  Our educators, doctors, nurses, trash collectors and shelf packers.  It has laid bare the weakest and the strongest components of business and the channels of communication with employees and customers. And demonstrated the importance of preparing for the future in a volatile market that will require agility and flexibility around business models and operating procedures as a key factor for success.

We have learnt that business can be done via screens; that we do not have to travel prompting a newfound respect for the physical and digital experience. How health has become the new wealth, and personal safety paramount. Forcing us to re-think, re-shape and re-imagine our place in the world as we make behavioural shifts that may extend well beyond the pandemic.

We have learnt that business can be done via screens; that we do not have to travel prompting a newfound respect for the physical and digital experience.

Active Player

Governments have historically always played an important oversight role in the retail ecosystem in terms of regulating labour law, trading requirements and health and safety regulations. However, amid the pandemic, we have observed how governments have now become the most influential force in controlling access to market opportunities.

Actively observing, managing, and aligning with government initiatives to mitigate risk and leverage opportunities will be another key success factor in the long run. Influence campaigns such as PR, advertising, coalition building, and negotiation will become more critical in responding to the increased role of government and institutions in the retail industry.


As we move from hard lockdown to a more relaxed phase, despite government regulations and supply chain resilience seen as the drivers of this stage, it is consumers that will become the influencers. Governments and brands will need to work hard to make consumers feel safe both physically and psychologically as well as financially in terms of trust in the currency.

Staggered Recovery

Certain sectors will undoubtedly take longer to recover than others, such as travel and hotels, entertainment, restaurants, sports, and retail. We observed that initially with containment and lockdown, retail re-prioritised essential categories and range rationalisation to essential categories and revised store layouts along with online solutions. In order to stay current, retailers will now have to consciously shift their focus to locally manufactured goods and services and related promotions to increase footfall and to continue focusing on stronger performing channels and the sustained adoption of consumers of online channels.  All the while, implementing behavioural driven changes around capacity limits, social distancing, temperature checks, shorter hours, increased ecommerce, and pick-ups. Our ‘new norm’.

Do Good to Do Well

Many organisations have been on a journey to lead with purpose, placing a greater value and emphasis around local communities. For some time now, this has been Smollan’s focused goal around everything we do as we realised that purpose will be the platform that propels organisations into the future. None more so, than post-pandemic. The way businesses interact with their environment, their people, and their customers will undoubtedly determine their future.

Already consumers, as they crave a return to normality, are connecting to experiences in a whole new emotive way.

Organisations, in order to remain relevant will have to move from a Pre-COVID ‘us’ mentality of more sales, growth, stores, traffic, and loyalty to a ‘them’ mentality, one of compassion, empathy, patience, understanding and authentic connection. Already consumers, as they crave a return to normality, are connecting to experiences in a whole new emotive way.


There will be a continued focus on omnichannel solutions with retail focusing on operational efficiency over theatre. An expected increase will be noted in buying groups to stabilise supply for small retailers and retail development of new technologies and micro fulfilment centres (MFC) on the increase. A slow return to Out of Home eating is expected.



Michael Smollan
Chief Growth & Innovation Officer