Good Things That Happened in Retail This Year

It’s been a tough year all-around, especially for fashion brands, who’ve seen consumer demand disrupted to an extent that many would have thought previously inconceivable. As we near the end of 2020 and hold hope for the opportunities 2021 might offer us, we thought we’d look back on a few of the positive headlines that the year brought us.

Companies invested in a new and improved kind of accountability

With racial reckoning and ongoing protests in the United States, designer and entrepreneur Aurora James of Brother Vellies saw that many companies offered up statements of support but felt like there wasn’t much in the way of accountability as to how they would show said support. So she started the Fifteen Percent Pledge, where businesses would sign up to give at least 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned brands (a proportion that reflects the US population.) The even better news? Retailers including Macy’s, Sephora, and West Elm have already signed the pledge.

Store employees are more empowered than ever

With many stores shut for extended periods of time this year, retailers had to get creative with how to reach customers who were locked down yet still engaged online. Enter digital clienteling tools like Tulip or Hero, who help sales associates sell product online.

As Total Retail aptly summed up the clienteling opportunity, “Giving consumers the ability to initiate digital conversations with an associate from a local store empowers them to control when, where and how they interact with the brand. They get a more fulfilling shopping experience when they can connect with an associate from their local store, request an appointment, initiate a video chat or live chat, or interact via email or text message. Retailers are able to capture valuable customer data with each request, while associates build relationships and earn credit for online sales.” Sounds like a win-win to us.

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Consumers were extra focused on health and fitness, and active brands showed up

If you were in the business of selling activewear or its close cousin athleisure wear, chances are your business actually fared pretty well this year. Big players like Lululemon and Nike have seen their stocks up significantly since the beginning of the year, and these two brands, in particular, have taken ahold of the at-home fitness trend in smart ways. Lululemon announced the acquisition of at-home fitness system Mirror, and Nike has invested in its various workout apps, fueling the company to e-commerce penetration it had previously not expected to reach for several more years.

But there’s growth for other brands out there in the active-slash-athleisure market

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, as analysts estimate that between now and 2023, the athleisure market in the US will continue to grow at a rate of 6.5%.

Small makers and designers had a moment in the sun on this marketplace (which is not Amazon)

Back in April, the CDC started issuing guidance around the general public wearing masks, yet much of the supply chain from China was backlogged and priority for medical-grade supplies had to go to healthcare workers. So who stepped up to the plate to deliver masks for the masses? Etsy sellers. These entrepreneurial folks started up their sewing machines and have sold a reported $264 million worth of face masks in just Q3 of this year. And the marketplace looks well-positioned to capture more success in the new year and beyond, as folks continue to spend time at home, want to find personalized products, and seek to spend their dollars where they feel it can have the most positive local impact.

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A “Profitability mindset” comes front and center

In its annual report, McKinsey and Business of Fashion outlined key themes that will be ever-present in fashion retail in 2021. One of those was the idea of “less is more,” whereby brands realize that more products for consumers to choose from isn’t necessarily better. In fact, it creates complexity that can add unnecessary cost and time to the supply chain. The report cites examples of brands like Nike, Victoria Beckham, and SMCP Group culling and optimizing their assortments.

This idea of “less is more” from the retailer’s side is also increasingly aligned with a similar consumer mentality, whereby they favor “fewer, better” things and not necessarily the newest, shiniest thing on the block.

So…what did you count as the top good news in the retail industry this year? Let us know here!