According to a company- Retailing Today, that works closely with retailers to predict new trends and customer demands, the new year will be marked by five main features that reflect the shifting retail landscape. Consistent across these trends is the idea that retailers of all types and across all channels need to ensure that their customers can enjoy a seamless, easy, and personalized retail experience.
- First, apparel retailers increasingly are expanding their assortments to include related items, such as home décor and cookware. Similarly, previously focused brands are adding expanded collections that feature plus size options, more athletic (or athileisure) gear, and so forth. For example, H&M already has introduced home goods sections in its stores and online site; it is preparing to introduce a cosmetics line as well.
- Second, in addition to expanded assortments, retailers increasingly are offering distinctive and unique in-store experiences to consumers. As we noted in a previous newsletter, retailers such as Club Monaco and Restoration Hardware now include libraries, yoga studios, coffee shops, and other leisure services in some of their flagship stores. This drive to increase the time that customers spend in stores also will mean that retailers need to reconceive of their layouts and designs, as well as invest more in additional employee training and capital expenditures to enhance the likelihood of the success of these initiatives.
- Third, sales clerks need more training in experience-based retail locations, but they really represent a key factor in any retail setting. Even as retailers seek to cut their labor costs, they increasingly are recognizing how important a well-trained and well-informed salesperson can be to the sale. Some stores are experimenting with ways to address both these needs, such as installing call buttons in dressing rooms, so that shoppers can solicit sales help when needed, but clerks can stay busy with other tasks when no one is asking them for assistance.
- Fourth, discounts are moving off site. Many major retailers, including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s, have expanded or initiated separate storefronts for their discounted items, separating them from the inventory maintained in their traditional stores. The goal is largely to keep earning profits without disrupting regular shoppers’ price perceptions. The threat is that all these regular shoppers will simply switch stores and start shopping solely at the off-price versions of their favorite retailers.
- Fifth, some of these retailers are known for their personalized service, such as clerks who call their best customers on their birthdays. In the modern retail world, such personalization increasingly takes place in digital forms, and customers increasingly seek out deals or promotions that are unique and specific to their needs and wants. Such moves might help increase the sense of personalization, but it also might lead ultimately to smaller margins