Retailers reconsider need to reopen all stores as COVID-19 disruption sends shoppers online

Doors reopened at the Platypus shoe store in the Melbourne Central shopping center last week, but it wasn’t the first time staff had returned to work since it closed in late March.

Staff had been working behind closed doors to fulfill online orders using the store’s inventory — operating a so-called dark store.

Platypus is part of Accent Group, a footwear retailer that runs chains including Hype DC, Sketchers and The Athlete’s Foot.

Accent chief executive Daniel Agostinelli says the day he had to shut around 500 stores and stand down 5,000 staff across Australia and New Zealand was the worst of his life, but in the following days, online emerged as a lifeline.

“Almost three to four days after our shutdown, we started to notice that our online sales were growing exponentially,” he said.

A man standing in front of shoe boxes stacked on shelves
Daniel Agostinelli says Accent Group’s investment in online infrastructure has paid off.()