“How can we deliver a fabulous shopping experience; how do we reconfigure our service standards; how do we create opportunities in a tough business environment; and how do we sustain the brick-and-mortar model?” Post-pandemic, as retail shifts gears, these are some of the burning questions within our business and the retail industry, feels Khurshid Vakil, co-founder, Marina Home Interiors.
Understanding consumer mindset
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of the furniture retail industry too.
“Like all other business categories, furniture and homeware industry also had its fair share of setback since the global pandemic started,” Vakil observes. “Apprehension, low sentiment and a sense of insecurity played a major part in customers’ holding back. That said, we are observing a gradual but consistent trend of increased footfall into our showrooms since the markets reopened. We strongly believe that as a premium home furniture brand, attracting consumers from a certain income group, we will continue to grow as we move forward.”
But, in the post-COVID-19 world, corrective measures are critical for the survival and success of any brand. Vakil agrees.
“It is vital, and in many ways critical to understand whether or in what capacity consumer habits may have changed during the lockdown period. After all, the world has survived unprecedented measures by way of strict guidelines, and rightly so, during the lockdown. As such, people may have taken a thorough look at their requirements, reflecting and introspecting about how they need to shift gears in what they want or need in the future. Our future success, as a retailer, lies in understanding all these elements to continue to provide products and services that best fit the new consumer mindset.”
Readjusting business goals
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Marina Home Interiors has performed decently. “Our business performance for Q1 2020 has exceeded our expectations,” says Vakil. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a slowdown like no other, in every industry globally; and we are no exception. Our Q2 bottom line will be greatly impacted, especially for April and May owing to temporary store closures. However, looking at the relatively higher levels of conversion and basket value during June 2020, we believe the trend will continue to rise for the remaining months of the year, but gradually.”
While Vakil is positive about a gradual recovery, Marina Home Interiors is undertaking readjustment measures to ensure business continuity. “Readjustment, in our case, requires a three-fold approach. One, there would be a remarkable change in consumer habits, their buying patterns, likes and dislikes. Under such circumstances, sustaining businesses through 2020 is a priority for all industries. Second, we must take a closer look at operational costs and how these need to be kept lean and effective. Third, we will have to constantly deliver an exceptional shopping experience through innovative products and service standards,” he explains.
For Marina Home Interiors, the pandemic has reinforced the need to adapt, while building on the brand DNA. “It is also crucial to know our customers well, to align our unique selling proposition with their needs, especially at a time when people might tend to avoid non-essential costs,” Vakil adds. “It is also important to continuously evolve and reinvent to stay relevant.”
Vakil also stresses the importance of team building and hiring the best in the industry. “After all, your associates and co-workers are your biggest strength. They are your brand ambassadors.”
Reopening in a post-COVID world
As businesses have started reopening, retail brands are reminding shoppers of what they have missed during the lockdown, therein encouraging them to come back into the stores.
“All along with the lockdown, we continued to engage with our audience through innovative media campaigns across all platforms. We believe that there is a need for greater top of mind brand recall and a sense of loyalty while reaching out to customers in unprecedented times, especially when most brands might tend to cut their marketing budgets,” states Vakil. “Besides this, our showrooms have reopened with a fresher aesthetic appeal because of creative visual merchandising and a new range of products. Importantly, we have all the health-related safety and precautionary measures in place to ensure our customers feel safe and comfortable to linger a little longer in the stores.”
Future of retail
When asked what the future looks like for retail and Marina Home Interiors, Vakil says, “The population will continue to grow and so will the related real estate. Everyone yearns for a home and that too a beautiful one! We will strive to work towards making Marina Home Interiors the most preferred brand in the home space.”
“Seamless shopping is the future of retail. Shoppers would be looking at a fully integrated approach to a unified experience across all touchpoints with fewer or no barriers between online and physical sales,” he continues.
“While online platforms may move towards augmented reality (AR) and drone deliveries, there is no shortage of customers who would continue to enjoy experiential shopping habits, human interface, the touch and feel fulfilment and the joy of seeing and buying something as a family. In that respect, premium homeware shopping will have the edge over many other categories,” Vakil concludes.