My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part I)

My retail rundown.

Retail is an ever-changing game. One day, critics say that shopping malls are dead, the next they are saying that in-person shopping experiences are paramount of importance, the next that consignment is the new method of purchase. There are a million opinions about what the future of retail will look like. This year, I thought I would take a stab at some trends that I see blossoming over the course of this year. Don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter that comes out every Sunday to stay updated for when Part II comes out next week!

Experiential Moving Online

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I think that everyone would agree that shopping is meant to be all about the experience. Touching the clothes, wearing the clothes, interacting with the sales people, and purchasing the items- maybe even doing a little twirl in the dressing room? But, when company’s retail storefronts are forced to close down, much of the experience that consumers get purchasing, has gone away. Consequently, companies have been striving to find innovative methods to recreate unique experiences for customers. Some ways that retailers have started to do so is through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. AR is one compelling way that furniture retailer Wayfair, for example, has been engaging it customers through almost exclusive e-commerce selling. Through AR, Wayfair app users have been able to see what Wayfair items would look like in their house, whether it be couches, rugs, or anything in between. This is a truly innovative solution that the company is exploring in order to further engage the consumer and allow them to explore different opportunities with the touch of a button. It also allows purchasers to feel more comfortable with their buying decisions, given that they have already had the opportunity to “try out” the items in their own home. Similarly, AR and VR company Obsess has been building these tech experiences for companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior, Coach, Ulta Beauty, and Ralph Lauren. Obsess has created virtual stores and buying experiences for 5 years, increasing the return on investment for retail stores by setting up a virtual sales channel. This is truly the wave of the future.

Product Pages with Videos and Tutorials

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As a result of in-person buying being put on hold due to the pandemic, more companies have and will start incorporating videos reviews and tutorials into their product pages in order for the consumer to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Because buyers aren’t able to touch, try on, and experience products in stores, online retailers should be more motivated to put up dynamic content in order to best inform the consumer on the products they are interested in. ASOS does a good job of including videos of models in the clothing that they sell, giving the consumer a better idea of the fit, movement, and texture of the clothing- aspects that they might not be able to detect from just a photo. Beauty products are especially difficult for consumers to buy online because they tend to require testing within the consumer journey. Customers buying an eyeshadow, for instance, in stores, would often be able to test a sample to examine many aspects of the product- texture, color, contrast with skin tone, and scent. Understanding this obstacle, Sephora has begun to incorporate short videos and tutorials into their product pages, such as this one, which showcases what the product looks like on a range of skin tones as well as a brief glimpse of how the application works. The more information that buyers have, the more equipped to make a purchase. Dynamic content remains king. 

Brick and Mortar Closures, Except for Big Box

Café Congreso in the Phillipines - inspired by Wes Anderson films

This comes as a shock to no one, but it appears that more brick and mortar closures are in the cards for small to medium size businesses. The return on your investment for retail storefronts, especially during the pandemic, have become smaller and smaller, as consumers have found online shopping more popular and safe than venturing into brick and mortar shops. E-commerce companies, who can leverage online marketing to their advantage, can see profits well above their counterparts, who are spending thousands of dollars on shops to gain recognition and hopefully pull some passersby in off the street. I can definitely foresee popular online retailers opening up shop in the future, but only after having establishing intense brand loyalty and a steady stream of sales. I also imagine pop up stores becoming more popular, as retailers are able to test the market on whether or not there is a consistent customer base in a specific location as a proof of concept.

The End of Scheduled Collection Releases

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There was once a time, long, long ago, when designers showed their latest collections during Fashion Week. Due to the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many designers have had to reschedule or even cancel shows. However, this has allowed for fashion houses to reevaluate their participation in such prescribed events. Michael Kors even moved his Spring 2021 presentation from September to October 15th in 2020. “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change,” he said in a statement. “It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar—from Giorgio Armani to Dries Van Noten to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe—about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work,” Kors comments. The pandemic has allowed for designers to rethink many aspects of tradition within the industry, set seasons being one that has created more cohesion for some and stress for others. In the future, I see designers favoring their own pace over industry convention. 

Supporting Small Business 

Why Kamala Harris's Outfit Made a Striking Statement at the InaugurationSmall business owners will continue to challenge major players in the retail space this year, including everyone from trendy Esty candle and acrylic coaster makers to young, emerging fashion designers. We saw it at the presidential inauguration and will be seeing it a lot more in 2021. Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear a purple coat and dress designed by up and coming African American designer Christopher John Rogers, a Louisiana native. Similarly, First Lady Jill Biden wore a blue ensemble by emerging designer Alexandra O’Neill, who is originally from rural Colorado. Although outfits worn during this prestigious event are traditionally made by U.S. companies, both women went out of their way this year to support individuals lesser known in the industry.

Likewise, there has been a continual push for consumers to eat and shop more locally, supporting businesses that have been hit hard due to the pandemic. Buying from American owned businesses has also become a priority in attempting to boost the local economy as opposed to purchasing products from abroad. This movement has shown a heavy spotlight on new faces within the industry- a true breath of fresh air. I have also witnessed social media, such as TikTok, play a large role in increasing exposure for small businesses, like instant acrylic nail company Klaw Beauty, sustainable clothing company STAN, and candle company ember candles, to name a few.

The way that we shop in 2021 is shifting and I hope and pray it is here to stay!


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