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Eric Feigenbaum

Brand Perception Is Now Part of Your Bottom Line

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

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THE HALLMARK OF retail has always been its ability to embrace new ideas, new products and new concepts. Over the course of its history, retail has been quick to adapt. In recent years our culture and our society have changed at a rate never seen before. From new technologies to existential challenges, the world is markedly different today than it was yesterday, and it will be markedly different tomorrow than it is today.

Will retailers be ready for the changes and challenges of the post-pandemic world? As consumers venture out to retail corridors, neighborhood malls and the center aisle, how will they perceive the many brands, both established and start-ups, competing for their loyalty as we embrace a new normal?

To move forward, we must examine the road that brought us to where we are today. As retailers assess the challenges of the past year and a half, they must introspectively appraise the contributions they made and the value they added to the community in its time of need. What attributes of the brand will be foremost in the minds of consumers as a new day appears?

When the world was forced into lockdown, many retailers stepped up in support of the millions struggling through debilitating isolation to supply not only goods and services, but also aid and comfort. And while supporting the community, they also supported their heroic employees who performed yeoman’s work in keeping the community safe and well supplied. Every corporate strategy would have been to no avail were it not for the dedication, selflessness and professionalism of the workers who manned the trenches in the most perilous of times.

Locked in the throes of the pandemic, retail once again demonstrated that necessity is the mother of invention. Innovation abounded, even in what seemed the bleakest of days. Remaining nimble, retailers across the globe reacted with inventive and even ingenious initiatives to help their companies and their customers navigate through the uncertainty of the times. Responding to the needs of the community wasn’t based on the coldness of an omnichannel approach, but rather on the warm embrace of an omni-presence approach – i.e., the act of saying we are here for you whether through your mobile device or through our safe and secure physical store environments.

Particularly impressive was the response many retailers had to the need for fast and reliable pick-up and delivery. Though e-commerce was an important lifeline for the survival of businesses and households, creative logistical practices were the arteries of commerce. Once again, many retailers proved to be inventive in creating thoroughfares of efficient and dependable merchandise delivery.

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Concurrent with the closing and restrictive forces of the pandemic were the opening sensibilities of social awareness. Many retailers took to the frontline trenches in support of diversity and inclusion in the workplace while assuming their positions as pillars of social justice. Being in business isn’t merely about selling goods, but rather about doing good.

How will your brand be perceived? Did you make a difference? Remember that what lies within us transcends the bottom line. In fact, it is the bottom line.

Eric Feigenbaum is a recognized leader in the visual merchandising and store design industries with both domestic and international design experience. He served as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Store, a division of Federated Department Stores, from 1986 to 1995. After Stern’s, he assumed the position of director of visual merchandising for WalkerGroup/CNI, an architectural design firm in New York City. Feigenbaum was also an adjunct professor of Store Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and formerly served as the chair of the Visual Merchandising Department at LIM College (New York) from 2000 to 2015. In addition to being the New York Editor of VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). Currently, he is also president and director of creative services for his own retail design company, Embrace Design.

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