Long Island’s retail sector would benefit from a digital infrastructure, including a virtual trade show, that supports e-commerce and order fulfillment.
That’s according to a study published by the Long Island Business Council, titled “The Long Island Retail Sector: Neglected, Undervalued, Essential.”
“Retailers will need to master an increasingly omnichannel landscape, which means upping their e-commerce game, focusing on customer convenience, and ensuring customer experiences are seamless within channels and seamless across channels,” Michael Harrison, executive director of LIBC and author of the report, said in a statement.
The report comes at a time when consumers are increasingly reliant on online shopping amid the pandemic, and as retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart have improved their digital infrastructure, including with new local Amazon fulfillment centers on the horizon.
But the region’s retail sector is very important to every Long Island, “and is fundamental to our economy and our way of life,” the LIBC report points out.
According to the report, retail sales have increased every year since 1992, including thanks to COVID – excluding the Great Recession of 2008.
Retailers with strong e-commerce infrastructure “have generally reaped the benefits and are expected to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position,” the report said.
Yet independent retailers face challenges including “hypercompetitiveness, changing consumer preferences, rapidly changing technology, barriers to execution, availability of skilled labor , sensitivity to external factors and e-commerce growth,” according to the report. And while people like to shop locally, retailers with strong online infrastructure are competing and making proximity easier than ever, as people can easily order goods on their phones rather than shop. on Main Street.
Now, LIBC recommends in its report that retailers work with government and economic developers to create a virtual Long Island living room. The show would serve as a digital platform to house a “searchable database of regional businesses, a census of business activity and trends, a repository of business development resources and best practices, a jobs and a regional prospectus to attract businesses”.
The report also recommends that retailers partner with government leaders to create a “Shop Long Island” digital platform with a “collective local fulfillment resource.” It would include a digital regional trade show and a “collaborative, scalable and integrated regional micro-production infrastructure”. This platform would benefit local retailers “who have little or no in-house fulfillment operations,” the report says.
According to LIBC, retailers would need state and local government support, including the state on issues such as collecting taxes from out-of-state e-commerce vendors. Support from business associations, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders will also be needed.
But retailers should also adapt to changing times. This would include steps such as “adopting omnichannel strategies, optimizing customer journey touchpoints, and prioritizing convenience and creating experiences for customers.”
The report also suggests forming a regional retail council to advocate and push priorities forward. Infrastructure “must connect Long Island residents to downtowns, shopping centers, malls, freestanding retail, industrial, office, healthcare and recreation assets,” according to the report. And collaboration with educators, unions, employees and government would serve to “reinvent the retail workforce with increased investment in the workforce that provides skilled workers, improved training, appropriate compensation and desirable career paths in retail”.
Retailers should also work with technology, business and education leaders, as well as college interns to “create a plain-language guide to evaluating expensive and confusing technology solutions so they can more easily adopt and leverage meaningful technology,” according to the report.
Harrison said, “Retailers will need the help of government and economic developers to improve their e-commerce literacy, create a regional micro-fulfilment infrastructure, and develop a virtual Long Island trade show that can serve as the basis for a e-commerce platform “Shop Long Island”.
“The ability to implement this regional e-commerce platform and help local brick-and-mortar stores become a viable part of it, will equip Shop Local initiatives with a tool to navigate the growing omnichannel marketplace,” he added.
“We must look beyond the pandemic and work to bring about the structural and systemic changes that can help ensure that when the recovery does come, it will be comprehensive and sustainable,” LIBC Nassau Co-Chair Richard Bivone said in a statement. communicated.
“This report represents the Business Council’s inaugural effort in this regard,” said Robert Fonti, co-chairman of LIBC Suffolk, “Long Island’s retail sector has been so affected by the pandemic. It is high time that the sector and its essential workers are getting the recognition and attention they deserve, and we hope this report helps make the difference that is so badly needed for this vital sector.