Consumer Products and Retail: Market Response to COVID-19

Consumer Products and Retail: Market Response to COVID-19

Karin Selfors
Global Segment Head

Consumer Products, Life Sciences, Industrials

In the weeks following the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, organisations around the world acted promptly to put safety measures in place for their workforces and customers. Businesses are now directing efforts to adapt their operations processes, convert to virtual workforce where possible, and plan for post-COVID recovery.

The following benchmark analysis represents reactions from global Consumer Products and Retail (CP&R) corporations in Pontoon’s segment portfolio, as well as leading market competitors.

Industry Outlook

Particular to this segment, we are seeing stark realities based on what is deemed essential during the pandemic.  For essential retailers like grocery chains, stores remain open and busier than ever as they try to keep shelves stocked. Some Consumer Goods corporations have seen a shift in sales channels: significant decline in sales through avenues like restaurants and sporting events but significant growth through grocery sales. 

For non-essential or luxury retailers, the outlook has been quite different. Corporations are responding with entire store closures until social distancing is lifted, resulting in large scale furloughs.

Talent Overview

As companies navigate through these behavioural changes, the talent needed is also changing.  We examined what roles our industry portfolio is hiring versus which roles have been put on hold, furloughed, or exited.

Now Hiring: what roles are CP&R organizations still hiring?

  • Supply Chain: transportation for logistics and delivery, merchandisers 
  • Factory operations: production, forklift operators, warehouse 
  • IT Infrastructure: increased to support remote workforce and online sales 

What roles are CP&R organizations exiting or putting on hold?

  • Retail store workers for non-essential goods and services 
  • Professional roles like accounting, managers, supervisors 
  • Research & Development, Lab 
  • Work deemed unessential that cannot be performed remotely

Post-COVID Hiring

Companies are re-focusing on a recovery plan for when non-essential stores and services re-open, anticipating high volume hiring with a high supply of talent.  One example that highlights this: on March 20, 2020, one retailer received more than 200,000 applications compared to a normal day’s average of 5,000 applications. This increase is based on the flooding of laid-off retail workers, and a surplus of layoffs outside of the CP&R industry.  

Updated Policy Changes for Essential Onsite Workers

Consumer goods and retail organisations are overhauling their standard policies for onsite workers in production plants, offices, and retail stores to ensure the safety of their workforce and customers.

Factory Operations:

In companies reviewed, 100% have updated their factory and production policies extensively.  Some common updates to production sites have included:

  • Implementing health monitoring mechanisms before entry, such as temperature checks
  • Enhanced PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  • Modifying work stations, shifts, and break schedules to ensure 6-feet social distancing
  • Performing stricter cleaning, focused on high-touch areas or impacted work stations

Companies have also altered how goods are delivered, protecting their truck drivers by moving to contactless delivery.  Drivers are not allowed out of the trucks, and retailers must unload.  We have not seen much data yet on delivery truck sanitation updates.

Retail Operations: 

Essential retailers are quickly changing their operations to meet the needs of their workers and customers. Some changes have included:

  • Implementing social distancing strategies, such as limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at a time
  • Reducing store hours for cleaning and restocking
  • Increasing contactless pick-up options

Changes to hiring processes: a move to virtual as much as possible 

100% of companies reviewed have altered their hiring processes to virtual as much as possible.  Corporations are moving to virtual interviewing, onboarding, and orientation training. In limited cases, we saw exceptions to moving towards remote hiring processes for some factory and frontline workers, who were still being interviewed in-person and trained onsite. In many cases, we found provisioning of new hires to be the most challenging for the virtual hiring process.

Final Thoughts

In this unprecedented global crisis, the outlook and modifications to operations are fluid and changing rapidly. It’s important to note that this analysis represents reactions through April 10, 2020. As parts of the world are starting to slowly reopen, with others yet reaching its pandemic peak, we will continue to monitor and update our benchmarking to provide current and accurate results for our CP&R customers and partners.

This is an abbreviated version of our benchmarking analysis. To view the full report, click here.

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