The global pandemic has brought economies to a halt and imposed strict health rules on the entire retail market. Non-essential shops had to close up for an indefinite period of time. Once the shock has passed, a period of reorganisation began, marked by the introduction of health protocols, but at the same time, by the emergence of solidarity initiatives strengthening the link between the public and private sectors. Novel and sometimes surprising partnerships have been proof positive of the incredible resilience and creativity that the retail sector has shown.
Although the shops were closed for weeks and weeks, behind the lowered blinds, many people were busy. Stakeholders in retail were organising themselves to best embrace the health restrictions and limit the economic consequences, but they also positioned themselves to be part of the national effort to fight the crisis and find solutions to help the most affected. Numerous solidarity actions have flourished throughout the world to help healthcare workers in need of masks and hand sanitizer, or small non-essential businesses cut off from their customers, house-bound customers, or isolated women who are victims of domestic abuse. As a result, links have been forged, and associations have been created to get through this unprecedented ordeal as one.
Retailers step up to support the national effort
Following requests from nursing staff, doctors and pharmacists in the town of Romans, the jean and shoes brand 1083 reorganised its clothing workshop to dedicate it to the production of protective masks.
For its part, Sébastien Bazin, CEO of the Accor group, announced on 16 April that 300 volunteer hotels in the Ile-de-France region would be made available to people contaminated by the coronavirus, at cost, i.e. between 30 and 50 euros per night.
And French oil company Total has decided to offer no less than 50 million petrol vouchers to doctors, hospital practitioners, nurses, midwives and ambulance drivers. An initiative supported by a donation of €5 million for the Pasteur Institute and hospital associations actively fighting the pandemic.
We noted another donation made during the first lockdown. The company Pernod Ricard donated 70,000 litres of pure alcohol to the Cooper laboratory in order to manufacture hand sanitizer. The latter has also undertaken to match the donation to associations linked to the health sector.
The LVMH group also participated in the production of hand sanitizer by reconverting three of its French production sites usually dedicated to its perfumes and cosmetics.
Decathlon, for its part, blocked the sale of its Easybreath diving mask as soon as the conclusive tests for transforming it into a respirator were announced!
Initiatives to support non-essential small businesses
“Lève ton verre pour les bars du Québec” (“Raise your glass for the bars of Quebec!”) This is the name of the initiative launched by the Canadian company Molson to support all restaurants, bars, hotels, among the brand’s 2,400 or so establishments and business customers. The idea was as simple as it was clever: every Quebecer who raised a glass of beer in a videoconference, and shared an image on its social networks, received a $25 gift card to spend at their favourite bar or restaurant.
And how have Bird scooters join forces with local shops? By developing a new feature, via its app, allowing users to easily find restaurants that do take-away or delivery.
For its part, Intermarché launched a solidarity drive, in partnership with the French marketplace publisher Mirakl, to provide booksellers with powerful digital tools that are free and available throughout France to sell their books. The costs were covered for six months.
Beginning on Monday, 2 November, to keep a certain few digital platforms from holding a monopoly on the sale of certain products, Auchan decided, with the help of its partners Mondial Relay and Ceetrus, to make its supermarkets and collection points available to retailers at no extra cost.
And what about the European solidarity plan launched by L’Oréal? The Group’s plants have participated in the manufacture of hand sanitizer. L’Oréal has also frozen all receivables until the VSE/SME activity of its distribution channels (hair salons, small perfumeries) resumes. And the Fondation L’Oréal has donated €1 million to its partner associations involved in the fight against insecurity.
Customers have also been supported
The British chain specialising in health and beauty care Superdrug has entered into a partnership with the My Online Therapy online clinic, which is highlighted on the retailer’s website. The latter revealed in a survey that 6 out of 10 customers felt that their mental health problem had worsened with lockdown and social distancing measures.
The eCommerce site Zappos, specialising in footwear sales and renowned for offering the best employee and customer experience in the world, launched a 24/7 telephone hotline to help customers who call about… “any subject”: weather, holiday plans, a list of restaurants offering take-away sales, or a selection of the best apps created to cope with the situation and relieve isolation.
Local dynamics to save what can be saved
Rungis Market signed a partnership with the Epicery platform, which hosted “Rungis delivered to your home” on its website. Parisians and residents of the inner suburbs of Paris were thus able to put together their “basket” of fruit and vegetables and other fresh produce and have it delivered to their homes.
The Greater Nancy city area decided to launch an e-commerce website Achetez-GrandNancy.fr (Buy-GrandNancy.fr) to allow Nancy residents do their shopping from home and have it delivered to their homes.
In Rennes, around fifteen shopkeepers on the Place de la Gare square (bakers, grocers, wine merchants, restaurateurs, etc.) have decided to offer their services for take-away sales or delivery on placedelagare.shop website and app.
Commitment to a cause
The lockdown has resulted in an increase in violence against women. Salma Hayek Pinault, co-founder of Chime For Change and member of the Board of Directors of the Kering Foundation, announced the launch of the #StandWithWomen campaign to fight gender-based violence. It is a campaign visible on social networks, aimed at increasing funding for a range of non-profit organisations that support women and girls around the world.
And Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination, has initiated, in partnership with the Auchan group, an operation aimed at making it easier for those who experience violence to speak out. But how? By providing notices of reporting procedures (local and national numbers, dedicated government sites, etc.) in places frequented by everyone and making it possible to notify associations or government services if necessary.