Keeping Calm in Chaos

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Keeping Calm in Chaos

By Peter Breen - 03/31/2020

At some point in early March, all previous discussions about disruption in the retail marketplace started to seem irrelevant. The impact of a technology-driven shift to consumer-controlled, omnichannel shopping pales in comparison to a pandemic; the smartphone never sparked a nationwide run on hand sanitizer.

The industry’s need to reinvent itself for the long haul was largely placed on the proverbial back burner last month when, almost overnight, the nation seemed to make a collective decision to go home and stay there – but only after making an emergency trip to Costco.

Responding to unprecedented disruptions in the way society normally operates (widespread travel bans, work-from-home mandates, cancellation of all large-scale entertainment events) is keeping brands and retailers busy enough – especially as they adapt to how these changes have affected their own ways of conducting business.

Then there’s the need to start preparing for the very strong possibility of an economic recession. I’m as far from an alarmist as can be, but there already are signs that repercussions from the COVID-19 outbreak may last much longer than the pandemic itself.

Yet, while they’re confronting the chaos, industry professionals also need to maintain their standard practices as much as possible. At the same time it’s working to quickly replenish rapidly depleting inventories and hosting COVID-19 screenings in store parking lots, Walgreens (as just one random example) is still trying to drive sales for less-essential product categories and stage regularly scheduled promotions.

The Path to Purchase Institute is sensitive to both of these crucial needs, and our plan is to help the community tackle each.

For as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues, our coverage will take a strong focus on how retailers and brands are responding to meet the short-term needs of shoppers (and each other). Our new digital home at will serve as the content hub for coronavirus news and information from all of EnsembleIQ’s industry publications.

But we’ll also continue to deliver the community-building and business-driving content that Path to Purchase Institute has always provided the industry for more than 20 years through our websites, newsletters and this magazine to help brands and retailers better understand each other and their shoppers.

We’re blatantly illustrating this dual mission in the current issue with a two-cover flip edition. On one side, we take a deep dive into the current crisis with a feature story examining the industry’s immediate response, as well as the long-term effects it could have on both retail operations and shopping behavior.

On the other side, we offer our “regularly scheduled programming” of industry insights, led by an in-depth profile of Hall of Fame inductee Jennifer Reiner of Del Monte Foods and a celebration of the more than 160 executives among our “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing Agencies.”

As news of the pandemic became increasingly dire last month, Dollar General reaffirmed plans to open 1,000 new stores in 2020. Why? Because the proverbial show must go on – even when most literal shows have been cancelled. As always, we’ll be here to help.

More Blog Posts In This Series

Flattening the Funnel

I am writing this Editor’s Note just after concluding the all-new, all-virtual Path to Purchase Digital Expo. When you participate in a three-day marketing conference as both a speaker and attendee and you wear sweatpants the entire time (even when dressed in formal attire from the waist up), your thoughts can tend toward the surreal.

Keeping Up With the Times

If there is a single image that, for me, aptly illustrates the seismic changes currently taking place in our industry, it’s a shelf talker I noticed at Stop & Shop in early September.

An Update on 'SM2'

​​​​​​​I wanted to use this month’s Editor’s Note to provide an update on a special industry initiative first mentioned here in August.

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