Specialty stores, particularly those that had a significant brick-and-mortar presence, have struggled to recover from the crisis worldwide, with their ‘non-essential’ status resulting in prolonged forced store closures. And for those who were experiencing declines in traffic much before the onset of COVID-19, the pandemic dealt the final blow.

All hope is not lost, however, as the situation presents specialty retailers with several opportunities. Despite widespread store closures, many physical retailers that remain have moved to smaller, highly experiential stores that are tailored to the local market and offer a seamless omnichannel experience.

Perhaps predictably, specialty stores that had innovative e-commerce systems in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak managed to quickly shift their offering online, which included translating their renowned high-quality, personalized service to a digital format. However, as the costs associated with e-commerce grow increasingly high, cost optimization will be paramount moving forward. Inventory management, supply chain and process innovation, and data-driven demand planning will all be critical to success.

While the short- to medium-term future may seem daunting for specialty retailers, those willing to move quickly and invest in innovative technology and infrastructure will, ultimately, have the upper hand.

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