Digitalization of footwear retail is accelerated in Brazil

Observation is by experts who participated in the 1st edition of the Os Novos Rumos no Setor Coureiro-Calšadista Panel (The New Directions in the Leather Footwear Sector, in English)

If, on the one hand, the pandemic of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) caused 97% of physical stores in the Brazilian retail of footwear and artifacts to close its doors, on the other hand, it accelerated the digitalization of the segment. The finding was made by Wesley Barbosa, executive director of the Brazilian Association of Footwear and Artifact Shopkeepers (Ablac) and Eduardo Smaniotto, director of Ablac and commercial director of Luz da Lua (Novo Hamburgo/RS), who participated on April 23rd in the 1st edition of the Os Novos Rumos no Setor Coureiro-Calçadista Panel, an initiative of the newspapers Exclusivo and NH.

In the evaluation of the executive director of Ablac, the Brazilian retail of footwear and artifacts will come out more digitalized of the crisis caused by the pandemic of Covid-19. "The crisis came as an accelerator of the digitalization process. From now on, maybe the investments be less directed towards the opening of new physical stores and more directed towards the integration of existing stores with the e-commerce", he quotes. According to Barbosa, the footwear retail segment is one of the most backward in terms of digitalization in the country. "The pandemic has accelerated this process in five years. Consumers are seeing the safest way to consume, without having to leave home", he adds.

Highlighting the strength of e-commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic, Smaniotto cited a survey conducted in Italy, which showed that during the peak of the number of cases of the disease in the country, online sales increased 81%, with 18% of consumers who made their purchases in the digital environment, between February 20th and March 20th, had never made purchases over the Internet before. "So, in addition to having an exponential growth, we are beginning to notice the entry of new consumers, which perhaps would take much longer to adjust to this new means of purchase. Evidence that we need to speed up the strategies of retail digitization as much as possible," he maintains.

Delay in launching of summer collections
Due to the pandemic, Smaniotto emphasises that the launch of summer collections in Brazil will be committed and will have to be postponed. "With the shutdown of companies and even the postponement of fairs, this entire launch schedule will automatically be delayed. There is no way to seek sales at this time. Launches for the hot season will be delayed for on average of 30 to 40 days. Maybe this is a new normality that will return to what prevailed before all these anticipations ", he analyzes. For the commercial director of Luz da Lua, there should also be an extension of sales.

Maintenance of jobs
Currently, Brazilian footwear retail employs almost 1 million people. Because of this, Barbosa explains that since the beginning of the pandemic, Ablac has called the chain of the segment to discuss actions, which propose the maintenance of jobs. "Our great concern is that retailers will be able to maintain their payroll. In general, the retail has stopped the layoffs proposing collective vacations initially and then suspending the employment contracts and reducing the workload. All this for to be able to maintain the staff of the companies", he comments.

Great impact on the segment
For Smaniotto, the scenario of the retail segment, from the pandemic, is complex. "Nobody has ever been in this kind of situation. And to say that everyone was prepared or that they were able to take quick action is a lure. The fact is that like in any other crisis, calm first is extremely important for you to be able to analyze the impacts. And specifically in the footwear sector, this impact was very large because footwear is not an essential item. So, shoes stores were totally closed due to state decrees, which completely interrupted the generation of footwear retail revenue. We will have a much greater impact than in other sectors such as supermarket, for example", he evaluates.