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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

The Future of Retail Could Look A Lot Different In Detroit and Beyond

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Image credit: Meta Stange/WDET

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting small business and what does it mean for the future of brick-and-mortar’s across the country?

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With storefronts across the country forced to close their doors to the public, retail is taking a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some businesses may not be able to survive the temporary shut-down imposed by COVID-19, while others will be made to innovate in order to survive. 

As I look through the retail landscape… I’m thinking about what we’re accelerating, what we’re inventing, and simply what we’re interrupting that will come back when this is over.”  — Derek Thompson,  The Atlantic staff writer

Listen: What does the future of retail look like after COVID-19? 


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Jackie Victor, founder and owner of Avalon International Breads, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in April chronicling the struggle many small businesses are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She says Avalon slowly halted all of its operations back in March when the first stay-at-home order was implemented. Now, Victor says she finds herself in a lucky and privileged position to be able to garner timely access to the highly coveted federal PPP small business loans. These loans aren’t a fail-safe measure however; many businesses are having a hard time accessing funds and if they do, there are still countless hurdles to overcome. 

Victor says for her business it will be imperative to innovate. “I refuse to believe that we will not survive in some form…The business will probably look different,” says Victor. Looking forward, Victor says it will be a long time before there is any semblance of normalcy. “I can’t see any stability for at least another six months…By 180 days we’ll have a sense of what the new normal looks like and then we’ll be able to really focus,” says Victor.

Derek Thompson, a staff writer at The Atlantic, recently wrote a piece detailing how the current pandemic will dramatically change the face of retail. “As I look through the retail landscape… I’m thinking about what we’re accelerating, what we’re inventing, and simply what we’re interrupting that will come back when this is over,” says Thompson. Online sales is a key aspect of retail that Thompson says will accelerate in response to the coronavirus while close communal gatherings, like dine-in restaurants, are interrupted. 

Thompson says that the current pandemic will exacerbate inequalities especially between large and small businesses. He says right now businesses are being asked to hold their breath and large, corporate businesses simply have bigger lungs. “COVID is the great un-equalizer. You’re going to see an acceleration of inequality,” says Thompson. 

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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