The situation means retailers reopening stores have to weigh the potential sales benefit against the costs of keeping stores open, which can be high. ”Understandably retailers will be keen to reopen stores to clear seasonal stock and recover lost revenue, but the impact to profitability by opening these stores too early could be severe,” Honor Strachan, principal analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, wrote in an emailed April 9 report on H&M’s results.

In markets such as the UK where the government has offered support to retailers and furloughed workers, GlobalData said “it may be in the retailer’s interest to keep staff out of work until consumer willingness to spend on non-essentials returns and footfall picks up.”

Some retail in China is seeing customers come back. At luxury stores, unlike at many other non-essential retailers, shoppers have been returning faster than expected, according to management consulting firm Bain & Co. But the firm has forecast a slower recovery for luxury in the Americas and Europe. GlobalData also pointed out that Chinese shoppers’ “propensity to spend is significantly higher than in mature retail markets such as the US and much of western Europe,” and expects retail traffic will take longer to return in those areas.

While one survey of Americans found many say they’re eager to go back to stores, whether they actually do in large numbers once shops around the country open for business again may depend on how the current crisis ends. A vaccine might give shoppers confidence, but without it, they could continue to feel wary, not to mention that an impending recession will likely limit consumer spending.

Business and store traffic aren’t likely to return overnight. Retailers may need to plan accordingly.

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