How is Covid-19 impacting people and retail in US, Europe and Middle East?

Is your business international or were you planning on expanding? We caught up with friends of ORESA in the USA, Germany and the Middle East to find out what life is like on the ground and the impact on businesses and retailers during the pandemic.

This article was last updated 13.05.2020.

Overarching observations and/or opportunities

  • The consensus is that leadership / management skills have improved as a result of closer more personal management
  • You need to plan scenarios in line with your customer, your footprint and your capability
  • Many are considering shortening retail opening hours to improve return per hour
  • There is potential to re-merch in line with different customer journeys to help flow in shops
  • Many wealthy urbanites that saw the possibility of lockdown have temporarily left for the country or to different countries!
  • Those with kids are finding lockdown much more difficult to be productive than those without
  • Loungewear is an upward trend

Scroll down to read specifics from US, Germany and UAE.

covid-19 impact on retail

Our friend in the USA


There is no consensus on how to end lockdown – each state taking its view as to whether to end lockdown and how to deal with it

People in city-states like NYC are finding it far more difficult than those in the country


  • Most people are staying at home
  • Everyone is set up to remote work and most will stay homeworking
  • Masks and gloves are being used
  • Nobody is rushing back to the office or shops
  • A lot of companies are not ready to make decisions


  • Store portfolios will be rationalised in line with predicted demand
  • In some states, it’s suggested that sprays are going to be used at the entrance of shops
  • Numbers of people in shops will be limited
  • Social distancing will be monitored
  • Fitting rooms will be open – unsure as to how they will monitor
  • Beauty FMCG brands with e-commerce sites are seeing soaring online sales

impact of cover-19 on retail in Germany

Our friend in the Middle East


Dubai and Saudi are open but Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar are still in Lockdown.

Latent demand is pent up and strong – although this is Ramadan and therefore equivalent to Christmas in terms of traditional patterns


  • Masks and Gloves have been widely distributed and have hit almost 100% penetration
  • Whatsapp groups are the primary communication tool between local/ school/friendship groups


  • The number of people in-store is indexed to square footage
  • Customers are temperature checked as they go into a store
  • Most are opening for shorter periods, with fewer people in-store and taking more money
  • Single entrances and changed navigation through shops to ensure social distancing
  • No children under 12 and no over 60’s permitted
  • Items tried on must be kept off the shelf for 24 hours – so changing rooms are closed
  • Omnichannel has been significantly affected by a legal block on refunds and exchanges

Middle East retail during covid-19

Our friend in Germany


Whilst countrywide regulations are strong, regional differences are noticeable. Market towns are performing better than main high streets and malls.


  • Hygiene is key
  • Gloves are strict ‘hands-off’ as they hold more potential for cross-contamination than using your hands


  • Changing rooms were supposed to be off-limits but customers are keen to try items on
  • The distance between customers must be at least 1.50 metres
  • Size matters with smaller shops opening quicker
  • Testing at store entrances is not happening but customers with recognisable symptoms of COVID-19 are being excluded
  • Shops must prove they have a cleaning and disinfection regime
    • Disinfectants are provided
    • Drivers must be allowed to clean or disinfect their hands
    • Distance measures must also be ensured when the goods are delivered
    • POS must be compliant with mandatory rules
    • Local authorities can close any business that violates the regulations

We’ll be updating this article as regularly as possible to keep you up to date. If there are any additional regions you’d like to know more about email [email protected] and we’ll reach out to our network.

Our friend in Madrid


There is a central policy on how to end lockdown but Madrid, for example, is in phase 0 as infection rates are still relatively high. Basque country and Cantabria however are in phase 1 and they can now enjoy meals with friends, go to bars , albeit with social distancing.


  • Most people are adhering to lockdown and penalties are high if you flout the law
  • Those that can work from home are doing so even if they are allowed to go to workplaces
  • Masks and gloves are not obligatory with 60% usage of masks and low penetration of gloves
  • Concerns about supplies of PPE faltering in the public sector if general populus start buying


  • Some non essential retail shops opening in phase 1 areas
  • Some shops are operating an appointment system to go to the shops  – it is one in and one out
  • Local corner shops are still closed

ORESA’s global recruitment consulting friends & partners around the globe have confirmed that we are all sharing a similar impact. How has COVID-19 impacted the way that you do business in your country?

The Shared International Effect Of COVID-19:

  • Management/leadership skills have improved
  • Strategic planning is crucial
  • Remote work is the way forward
  • Hygiene is priority across the globe
  • Social distancing is enforced everywhere
  • Shops are quieter
  • Cleaning protocols are enforced

Covid19's impact

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