We recently joined the British Retail Consortium to discuss the future of retail. With many countries re-instituting lockdown measures retailers are once again facing more uncertainty. The fact that it falls so close to Christmas and over consumer shopping bonanzas such as Black Friday will compound concerns among many retailers.

Longer term, much will depend on changing consumer behaviors and priorities—from the driving forces of value versus values, the rapidly accelerated shift to online commerce, and whether another wave of the virus will stall recovery in the winter months.

The disruption of 2020, which compounded existing disruptive changes across retail, will herald fundamental changes to the operating model that retailers need to understand if they are to adapt and survive. Seven years of change in seven months is a pace of change that presents numerous challenges. It also brings opportunities.

For retailers, this is a unique moment in time where expectations from consumer to investor, as well as colleagues, have been disrupted to the point that change is not only accepted – it is expected. Twenty years ago, the barriers to adapting to new operating models under the current conditions would have been so much more severe. Now, enhanced technology implementation is imperative, plus it’s the best opportunity to undertake this work while employees are most open to working in different ways.

Sticking steadfastly to old, traditional ways of working is simply not an option. The extreme impact of the pandemic makes the need for cost reduction critical but that alone is not enough. Retailers need to look longer term, recognizing that ambiguity is here to stay and greater agility is needed to "roll with the punches" as we navigate our way out of the immediate grip of the pandemic and beyond. Radical and accelerated transformation is essential.

Retail leaders have a genuine opportunity to really think through how their business works, identify problems or inefficiencies, and make changes for the better. Legacy constraints around cost, technology, and culture have simply been blown away this year.