Retail Challenges During the Pandemic

ENG with Vanea

By: Adi Dreml-Scully

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns created mass hysteria amongst the
general public and panic buying ensued. Everyday items like pasta sauce and toilet paper were
quickly disappearing off the shelves causing a shortage in your local grocery store.
I interviewed Vanea who works at a graphic design agency in Toronto. She is responsible for
managing North American accounts for companies such as Conagra, Campbell's, Unilever and
Mondelez. One client in particular, Royale, would see their toilet paper flying off the shelves in
popular demand. "In order to help manage and keep up with consumer demands we have been
forced to design packages faster to make sure they get to the printer quickly", she remarked. It
was all hands on deck. People committed to working overtime and do what they could to help
get Canadians through the lockdowns. I asked her if clients tightened the budgets during the
pandemic and her answer was this "clients tend to spend more" "they tend to capitalize more
and spend money on innovations that people want but don't necessarily need". Human
behaviour generally dictates that people seek out comfort and ways to sooth themselves and
their fears during times of unrest, whether it be a recession, political unrest or a pandemic like
COVID-19. Product innovations became especially popular. Once restaurants were shut down
and people were forced to order take out or eat at home, people were more open to trying
new things. New pasta sauces, healthier salad dressing options and frozen meals launched
faster than the typical timeline would dictate. Other indulgences such as Tim Horton's ice
cream and cereals launched during the pandemic. Design studios and printers were kept busy
to ensure that they kept up with demand.
Alcohol and Cannabis sales increased by a large margin as well during the pandemic. People
were looking for ways to manage their stress during times of uncertainty.
Vanea's Canadian Alcohol Beverage client quickly briefed product innovations that would rival
products such as Smirnoff and White Claw. What would normally requires a 6-8 month timeline
was getting designed and released to printers in half the time.
Cannabis suppliers also struggled to keep up with high consumer demand. More and more
individuals are seeking out other ways to use cannabis without necessarily smoking it.
Innovations such as gummies, beverages, cookies and chocolates became especially popular as
an alternative to a typical pre-roll or an Alcoholic beverage. Now that the pandemic is more
under control the stress of keeping up with high consumer demand has lessened. Vanea's
remarkable tenacity and resilience during the pressure of keeping up with consumer demands
has paid off and is an achievement she should be proud of.

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