- The coronavirus pandemic has been rough on the retail industry.
- Business Insider interviewed Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank about his thoughts on the current state of the industry.
- He said that retailers should “be sensitive” to the needs of store workers during this time.
- “On balance, it’s been a year we all want to forget,” Blank said.
- That being said, the Home Depot cofounder said innovations like widespread outdoor dining and the prioritization of e-commerce may be “worth applying in the future.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The year 2020 has been a rough one for many retailers. Hampered by store closures and declining sales, plenty of companies have filed for bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, retail workers have struggled to balance jobs on the frontlines with protecting themselves and their families.
Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank recently spoke with Business Insider about his new book, “Good Company” and the impact of COVID-19 on the retail industry. Today Blank is best known for owning the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United. Blank also maintains a presence in the retail world, running a number of PGA TOUR Superstores, as well as two Montana guest ranches.
Blank stressed the importance of supporting store employees and embracing COVID-19-related innovations that benefit customers, including the emphasis on e-commerce sales and dining al fresco.
“What I tell myself — and all of our businesses — is that this is a period of time where we have to survive,” Blank told Business Insider. “We’ve got to take care of the customers as best we can, or our fans or our guests, whatever it may be.”
Blank told Business Insider that, despite the tough times, retailers must continue to support store employees. In his view, store workers are most businesses’ “biggest asset.”
“That means supporting them during a difficult period of time financially and every way that we can,” he said. “Be sensitive to their family situations, some have people at home who are aged, sick, or children they can’t get childcare for.”
In addition to shoring up support for employees, retailers can “look to 2021.” The pandemic can serve the retail industry by inspiring positive, customer-pleasing changes, Blank said. His aforementioned PGA TOUR Superstores have seen around a 150% surge in e-commerce business.
“On balance, it’s been a year we all want to forget, but there are a lot of things that are happening during 2020, some learnings that are worth applying in the future,” Blank said.
For example, the Home Depot cofounder and Queens native said that Manhattan looked “more like a European city” during a recent visit because so many restaurants were seating diners out on the sidewalk.
“There’s more connection that way,” Blank said. “That would be a nice thing in the future, for these same shop and same restaurant owners to do three quarters of the year in Manhattan when the weather’s nice. That’s a way they can expand their business.”