Three Trends Accelerated by Social Distancing

  • Insights

We must start these thoughts by sharing that all of us at Streetsense wish you and your loved ones good health and overall well-being during this difficult time. Please be safe and take good care.

While life under the veil of the coronavirus is only a few weeks old, it is apparent that our day-to-day routines and ways of considering the world around us have changed — probably forever. At Streetsense, there are three societal shifts that we can already see that will alter three major pillars of our work in dramatic ways.

Online grocery and food delivery systems are now normalized for a huge new market segment: Baby Boomers. For people under the age of 35, ordering groceries and take-out online has been commonplace for years. Baby Boomers (and to a lesser extent, Gen Xers) were warier – hesitant to trust anyone else to pick their produce or proteins. Then, the coronavirus seemed to explode all around us. Within a 48-hour time period, all of our epicurean selection snobbery went right out the window. It is estimated that during the first two weeks of March 2020, one-third of all consumers in the U.S. placed an online grocery order – 40% of them for the first time.

What did first-timers learn? Ordering groceries was easy, and if you weren’t looking for hand sanitizer, everything was possible. Want an acai bowl at 9:30pm? With or without chia seeds? Health booster powder? Yes, please!

But now that Boomers have crossed over, they’re hooked on online groceries and food delivery. The broader question is: what does this mean for the grocery industry? Particularly for small and regional stores, as this trend heavily favors large companies that can invest in both the delivery systems and the ecommerce tools that make online grocery shopping possible (and profitable).

What about dining establishments? Will delivery and take out orders be enough to allow most of them to persevere?

How we’ve defined “essential employees” will change how we value service workers — which should change the conversation around minimum wage. There’s nothing like a crisis to change and redefine what’s important to us. Our Streetsense teams can analyze, brand, market, plan for, and design as much retail as we want, but without the people who labor in stores and eateries, there is no retail. As Streetsense shifted to work-from-home operations, we realized heightened awareness of the indispensable importance of people who work to keep our society functional.

While most of us “sheltered-in-place,” we knew that our first responders – firefighters, police officers, doctors, EMTs, and nurses would show up for us and put their lives at risk. In the past few weeks, it’s become clear that we have an additional class of critical jobs, including cooks, chefs, cashiers, garbage takers, delivery people, truck drivers, transit employees, custodians, every type of skilled tradespersons — the list goes on.

These jobs are front and center in the minimum wage discussion. No doubt we will continue to have discussions around the #Fightfor15. Hopefully, the inherent and societal value of service workers will not be underestimated again.

How we define (and feel) a sense of community has permanently shifted. While we are in the process of sheltering in place, our need for community is stronger than ever. The notion that we are all in this together (albeit, separately) has become a powerful point of unity.

Consider the ways cultures across the world have coped with this newfound physical isolation from one another — residents of Milan singing the Italian anthem together with their windows wide open, people in Spain playing development-wide bingo, Lebanese citizens singing happy birthday to a neighbor — each one documents a moment of resilience, harmony and humanity. These events highlight how (although we’re all currently isolated) our bonds of community are unyielding.

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