How will the world be different when we come out of this crisis - and how will the lottery industry, retailing, consumer shopping and recreational behavior be different?
As countries are slowly exiting lockdowns and sanitary emergency, a debate opens on which kind of society we want. For weeks, consumption has been limited to essential goods, and greater appreciation is now given to everyday essential workers, from medical staff to cashiers. This is likely to have an impact on expectations regarding the economic recovery, with acute pressure on businesses to run sustainable activities, taking into account their human and environmental impact. The lottery already contributes to the local economy and to the benefit of society by supporting good causes and grassroot sectors like sport and heritage and will continue to reinvent itself to stay relevant and fulfill this mission. For sure the world might be different when we come out of this crisis and we are deeply monitoring the new consumption habits that will emerge from this.
While we are analyzing the consequences of the crisis and the changes it implies for the future, we can already take further steps towards the modernization and digitization of our business. We have managed to operate our games and draws efficiently and safely, with most of our employees working remotely in record time. We are learning from this experience and making the necessary adjustments so that we are ready to face the next crisis of course, but also to increase our everyday performance and employee well-being using all these new tools to work and meet.
This will inevitably have an impact on our games. We will continue to invest in digital platforms as they have shown how a vital alternative they can be. Digital services will also be more present in points of sale, and many solutions are yet to be invented, in partnership with other retail actors as well as the innovation ecosystem we work with. As retail operations will be different, we must rethink the way customers interact with our products and our retailers, and how we communicate with them to maintain this fruitful relationship.
We experienced a significant decline in sports betting activity, as a direct consequence of the limited sports betting offer that was available due to the suspension of most professional competitions. Lottery sales were also impacted by closures due to the lockdown and a drop in customer traffic in our points of sale, even if we experienced a spectacular rise in online registrations. There is no certitude that players will resume identical playing habits, but we are confident that our attractive and safe gaming offer will meet its public if we can deliver an adequate omni-channel experience.
We will of course onboard our retailers as key actors of this change. FDJ is supporting them throughout this economic challenge, with financial help by postponing some payments, as well as communication materials to make sure that their customers can adopt safe gaming conducts. For some of our iconic game brands, social distancing rules mean designing new customer journeys in points of sale. This particularly concerns express draw games and instant games, which generate a lot of retail activity and traffic as players like to reinvest some of their winnings.
The lockdown and travel restrictions have impacted our everyday life, but it has not stopped us from working and interacting with each other, thanks to the modern digital tools that were widely adopted. People have turned towards a more local economy for basic commodities, but it is clear from the public debate that their desire for leisure, entertainment and social contact remains. Lottery retailers constitute a proximity network, where this social contact is made possible. FDJ’s points of sales are often the last remaining store in some isolated villages. This being said, lottery and other forms of gaming facilities will be facing new restrictions, like all shopping and entertainment venues open to the public, that will transform the way we conduct these activities. These efforts to ensure the safety of both the retailers and customers are key to facilitate their return to the stores.
The closure of points of sale and travel restrictions have mechanically benefited to the online sector, which is also part of our business and a factor of growth. The market will probably not return to its previous situation nor remain at status quo, but instead there will be opportunities for all operators to benefit from new playing habits. Legislators and regulators should be vigilant regarding the development of illegal forms of gambling and allow lotteries and other regulated operators to better differentiate their safe gaming offer, adapt them to the consumers' new expectations and enhance their attractiveness, notably by developing new distribution platforms and communicating about them.