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As England ended its month-long lockdown earlier this month and began vaccinating against COVID-19, Retail Gazette reports that crowds of people celebrated their newfound freedom by shopping at high streets across England, packing London’s Regent Street — even mobbing Harrods.

The images of those crowds shopping in London brought me back to the many times I’ve spent at Liberty, my favorite retailer in the world. They’re the crossroads of the universe to me — their stunning Tudor-style store in London has offered a beautifully curated assortment of product with impeccable service and an unmatched sense of tradition since 1875.

Harrods offers something similar on a much larger scale. Its flagship store, founded in 1849, allows customers to walk in the footsteps of celebrities and royalty — and it offers an unparalleled experience in its food halls and its beautiful, well-stocked shop-in-shops. It’s the Disneyland of shopping, providing the thrill of discovery on a grand scale.

And that’s why those crowds were mobbing Harrods. That’s what people are aching for:

the thrill of discovery, the familiarity of the retail experience, the feelings of warmth and happiness they get from coming back to a store they know and love.

So if a retailer like Harrods or Liberty can come out on the other side of lockdown with customers beating down the door to get back in, there’s real hope for all of us.

It has been an incredibly tough year. Fully 550,000 people have been laid off in retail in the U.S. alone. But there is a path forward — and it all depends on those kinds of experiences.

What makes people want to come back to retail isn’t just product fulfillment — it’s the human connection, the service and the attention, the feeling of being welcomed and supported.

The retailers that are able to offer that will be the ones that thrive in the coming years.

This series of blogs will take a break for a couple of weeks as we spend time in personal reflection in preparation for 2021. I look forward to seeing how we all work together to enhance the shopper journey next year.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly here with any questions or thoughts, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.