Retail in times of COVID-19

As we emerge from lockdown, it is clear our retail experience will not get back to normal for a very long time, if ever, writes Mark Runacus, Co-founder and Planning Partner at Wax/On.

Mark Runacus MBE, Wax/On

Co-Founder & Planning Partner


The high street has been at the mercy of changing consumer habits for several years but became an inevitable and wholesale victim of the pandemic this spring. And now, as we emerge from lockdown, it is clear our retail experience will not get back to normal for a very long time, if ever.

In order to get through these unprecedented times unscathed, it is crucial that brands and retailers rethink their approach to every single aspect of their offering and of the customer experience.

Whether it’s the layout and design of your store, the way you offer contact time with customers, the alternatives to in-store browsing, or the way you communicate with or reward your customers, every element must be considered in this new light.

It is clear there are going to be some winners and some losers on the high street, but there is an important role for retail marketing. It is just imperative we are all thinking laterally about the ways in which we can navigate these unchartered waters with our clients.

Retail is close to my heart because I grew up in an extended family of shopkeepers. Not some retail dynasty, just a handful of aunts, uncles, and other relatives who owned thriving little shops on the busy high street of a North Nottinghamshire mining town.

Today all my relatives have gone, and even in pre-COVID times that high street wasn’t busy at all, which breaks my heart. That’s because the high street should be the place where community happens, where we communicate with each other, learn about each other, learn to get along with each other, and support each other.

So, whether you’re a small independent retailer in a former mining town or the CMO of a national retail brand, what is the role for retail marketing in times of COVID?

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Guest Author

Mark Runacus MBE, Wax/On

Co-Founder & Planning Partner,


Mark is Co-Founder and Planning Partner at creative agency Wax/On. Previously Mark was an owner of Karmarama, then one of the UK’s largest independent creative agencies, and now part of Accenture Interactive. In his 30+ year advertising career he has worked both agency and client side across all categories. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2019 birthday honours list for his services to advertising. His career started in direct marketing and Mark became a CRM and loyalty specialist before moving into general advertising. Mark is a former Non-Executive Chair of the Data & Marketing Association. Mark champions inclusion and diversity in the advertising sector in his role as Chair of Outvertising, advertising’s LGBTQ+ advocacy group. Volunteer run and not for profit, Outvertising works with brands and their creative and media partners for more positive LGBTQ+ inclusion in all paid media, and fights for a prejudice free creative working environment as part of a joined-up inclusion and diversity strategy.