We're back with another look at the cascading impacts that COVID-19 is having on cities, and this week we're covering e-commerce, retail, and delivery. (Quick aside: driverless delivery will be covered in greater depth when we look at the autonomous vehicle market more broadly. This week we're primarily focusing on deliveries made by humans.)
It's an interesting moment to look at these topics as discussions about what it means to "reopen" the economy are accelerating. Some locales are already beginning to experiment with letting businesses such as salons and gyms reopen, albeit with orders to maintain social distancing and limit capacity. Rolling re-openings may be the hardest onsmall businesses as they try to balance financial insecurity with managing health risks for themselves, their employees, and their customers. And if we think about the trends we were seeing before the pandemic, such as increasing interest in experiential retail, wemust wonder what will happen as a cautious reopening continues. Can experiential retailwhich, by definition, often includes plenty of touching and sampling, work with social distancing measures in places? To what extent will brick-and-mortar closures accelerate, a trend we were also seeing recently in certain segments of the retail sector?
Though the unknowns feel endless, we've rounded up our high-level findings to paint apicture of what we're seeing now and where we might be heading over the coming months. If these topics are of interest, we encourage you to JOIN US Thursday, May 14th for the Urbanism Next Virtual Forum where we'll be delving into these topics with the help of a great line-up of speakers.
With best wishes for a good weekend,
The Urbanism Next Team
- Fueled by stay-at-home orders and in-store shortages in the early days of the pandemic, e-commerce purchases have expanded into new categories. Will these new e-commerce buying behaviors stick as brick-and-mortar stores and services begin reopening? How will retailers balance their digital and physical presence?
- Sorted into 'essential' and 'non-essential' businesses, brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled to adapt to temporary closures, massive declines in traffic, or the need to keep customers and employees safely separated. As some states allow businesses to reopen, stores are adapting their operations and physical set up to balance public safety and their own precarious finances. What will it take for people to feel comfortable shopping in physical stores again? How will the pandemic shape our relationship to malls, commercial districts, and Main Streets in the long term?
- With stay-at-home orders in place many people have placed online orders to substitute for trips to the store, which means increased demand for delivery. In order to meet this increased demand, companies like Instacart have embarked on hiring sprees and companies like Uber and Lyft are pivoting to delivery. Concurrently,frontline delivery workers have organized strikes to call attention to the need for better protection and hazard pay, and access to delivery has proven to be uneven.Even as stores begin to reopen, it is likely that at least some of the increased demand for delivery will be sustained. How will this impact curb management? Willwe need more designated loading zones and parcel lockers in the public domain?
- The vaccine process has to move at "pandemic speed." How Long Will a Vaccine Really Take? (The New York Times)
- The "sharing" economy has ground to a halt, and Airbnb hosts come up short. 'A Bargain with the Devil'-Bill Comes Due for Overextended Airbnb Hosts (Wall Street Journal)
- Only 8 retail testing centers nationwide are in predominantly black neighborhoods. Retail Covid-19 testing is a massive failure for black communities (Vox)
- What's it like delivering food during a pandemic. How Meal Delivery Became Surreal(The Atlantic)
- And finally, a bit of levity: Is this social distancing blanket design as bizarre as it looks? (Creative Bloq)