Op-Ed: Lockdown’s Positive Lessons

A silver lining or two.

As the world learns how to stay socially connected but physically distanced, Luxury and Fashion retailers should pay attention to some of the trends that will start to impact their businesses.

Below, Lori Rhodes, luxury retail and marketing strategist in Dubai, tells us her two cents on what she’s learned during the pandemic and what businesses can too.

About Lori Rhodes

Lori Rhodes, a luxury and fashion retail marketing strategist, brings clients a wealth of leadership experience garnered at some of the most iconic brands in North America and the Middle East. She has developed multi-faceted consumer marketing, communication, and engagement experiences for Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Inc, Tiffany & Co., Godiva and Hudson’s Bay Company among others in the US; and for Al Tayer Insignia, Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall, Abu Dhabi’s The Galleria Mall and many others in the UAE.

Originally from New York City, Lori moved to Dubai in 2015. A big thinker with an entrepreneurial mindset, Lori is passionate about creating compelling content, high-concept experiences, and meaningful consumer relationships to maximize a brand’s presence in the hearts and minds of their communities.

So here we are…several months after we first heard of COVID-19, the force that has forever changed our lives.  What have we learned?  How will the fashion and luxury retail markets move forward and adapt to the post-pandemic world?

Not everything is doom and gloom.  The upside to the global lockdown has been cleaner air, more time to reflect on what is really important to us, and the value of family and loved ones.  Are there also positive implications for luxury and fashion retailers?  Rebounding from global closures, supply-chain disruption, and general malaise is possible if we use some of the lessons the lockdown has taught us to help create a better, more human, more customer-driven business.

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

1. TECHNOLOGY TRULY UNITES US. When DJ D-Nice broke Instagram Live’s record with more than 100,000 viewers at his first Club Quarantine house party, the world participated in a virtual experience that was both transporting and unifying.  Not only has the internet connected us in ways we’d never experienced before but it has also showcased the triumph of creativity in all its forms.  As we’ve seen with the proliferation of Instagram Live and Zoom events including celebrity-hosted virtual high school proms, concerts, and globally-connected dance classes, there is so much more that brands and retailers can do to engage more deeply with consumers. The bar has been raised. Physical interactions between brands and customers will need to be more meaningful, exciting, and, above all, creative.

2. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY IS REAL. Moda Operandi, the on-line luxury retailer, released its seasonal report in early March. Lisa Aiken, MO’s director of buying and fashion, said, “People’s lifestyles have changed drastically, and we believe those changes will manifest in other areas of [their] lives, including the fashion they chose to wear. People will seek out higher quality items to last them for years.” When money is tight and economies are suffering, discretionary spending becomes directed at high quality, long lasting statement pieces. As we saw in the downturn of 2008, this phenomenon affects people across all socio-economic strata.  Brands will need to rethink their assortments and offer more intrinsically valuable, versatile, and long-lasting pieces.

3. CREATIVE STORYTELLING WINS. The pandemic saw a backlash against tone-deaf influencers. And even Pre-COVID, consumers were tiring of seeing content featuring heavy-handed product pushing. Going forward, influencers and celebrities will remain important, but not in the same way as before the pandemic. According to Launchmetrics, brand-creator relationships will shift “to become more focused on storytelling and entertainment, rather than solely product promotion.” Smart brands and retailers will give influencers the freedom to infuse their own creativity into the content so that the message truly resonates with their communities. Perhaps more importantly, we will see the rise of customers as influencers as user generated content becomes more important to brands.  The new consumer influencer is relatable and not solely image driven.

For success in the new post-COVID world, everything we did before will not get us to where we need to be.  Brands must embrace the trends that began in lockdown to create meaningful engagement within their community. Customers should be given the opportunity to participate in something bigger than themselves.  Brands need to offer not only unique and timeless product, but also allow content partners and customers to take the lead in creating engaging and relatable content that truly resonates within the community.

"For success in the new post-COVID world, everything we did before will not get us to where we need to be."