Even as states begin to lift lockdowns, COVID-19’s economic effects are widely expected to stretch into the second quarter, if not beyond. While each economic crisis is different, lessons from past recessions may help us navigate the current downturn. Contributing editor Anna Robaton spoke with thought leaders from different corners of the industry, and all agreed on at least one issue: There are no perfect historical parallels for the COVID-19-induced downturn. Past recessions had much different origins, and none featured such a sudden drop in economic activity. Our series begins with ...
First, don’t panic. Continue to work hard, lean on your colleagues and co-workers and try not to worry about things you can’t control. At the same time, try to skillfully manage the issues that you can control. Also, management matters, especially during a recession, so in good times and bad, associate yourself with the best and the brightest, and when times are tough, lock arms and fight your way through.
This crisis is the worst I’ve ever experienced because we’ve never faced a complete economic cessation before. As a result, the fallout from this crisis will be greater. The tenant universe will be more dislocated and the recovery period longer. This crisis will have a long-lasting impact on consumer sentiment, which, in turn, will have a negative impact on most conventional retail. During this period, people are learning to do without. The question is: What will motivate them to shop for nonessentials once again? Candidly, that's up to the retailer to provide relevant merchandise to lure back the customer. I think that’s going to be a difficult process.
Historically, recessions cause dislocation among the industry’s employee base. Numerous people who have the wherewithal to exit the industry do so. This, in turns, creates opportunity for younger, talented individuals to assume greater roles of leadership at an early stage in their careers. What young professionals need to keep in mind is that there are a lot of people in this industry who have experienced many downturns and are still here. The industry will fight its way through this and come out the other side stronger, but it will also have evolved into something different than it is today.