From retail store to showroom: businesses adapt to COVID-19

COVID-19 changed a lot of things about shopping – but the giant leap from retail to digital was probably the biggest. Brick-and-mortar stores all around the world were closed for months at a time and are just now (July 2020) starting to reopen. While many businesses faced the demoralizing costs of paying for a physical store that takes in zero customers, now that the pandemic has become more manageable and many states have allowed retail stores to reopen under modest constraints, businesses face a decision: should stores even stay open? The answer is yes – if you can do it right.

This blog explores some of the benefits of adapting a store model to a showroom schema.

Warby Parker Retail Showroom, Adapted for COVID-19
Warby Parker showrooms, which keep on-hand inventory virtually nonexistent, allow for a comfortable and spacious demo experience. Once a buyer has selected a pair of frames, the glasses are customized and shipped to them directly from a warehouse.

Keep retail stock low – so warehouse stock can stay high

By now it’s safe to assume that either your sales are relatively low and you’re potentially suffering from more frequent stockouts because of erratic bullwhip demand and/or inventory troubles. It’s also safe to assume that, like most companies, your sales mix might be moving online, away from retail. How do you deal with stock? Well, by converting your retail location to a more spacious “showroom”-style layout, instead of letting multiples of the same SKU take up space, you’ll free up stock for your omnichannel ecommerce inventory.

Social distancing is key

By keeping on-premise inventory low, you’ll also have the luxury of being to spread shelving and displays out, creating larger lanes for foot traffic. COVID has given shoppers an acute sense of what “six feet” actually looks and feels like – and they want to stay spread apart. Minimize shelves and eliminate tons of boxes and you’ll find your customers staying for longer, feeling more comfortable asking questions, and ultimately, more confident and closer to a purchase.

Make it experiential

By creating more display space, you’ll have greater creative bandwidth when it comes to arranging products and showing off your newest offerings. You know that the amount of physical retail shoppers will be less than you may have seen in the past, so train your employees to spend more time with customers and ask questions on a deeper level. By forging bonds with prospective buyers, you’ll not only increase the likelihood of purchase, but create brand loyalty that will get you through this market shift, as well as future ones.


Coronavirus has fundamentally altered retail shopping psychology forever – but that doesn’t have to kill your business. By adapting to a more integrated shopping experience, you can assure the customer that their time spent in a store will be safe, fun, and productive, while consolidating inventory in a different location. If your warehouse isn’t organized to have a location-based inventory management system, you’ll find that the organizational benefits of knowing where everything is will provide needed peace of mind and time savings in a turbulent environment.

Happy selling!
-The L4H Team

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