Shopping Trends to Expect in 2021

According to Retail Leaders and Analysts

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a new era of change for retailers across the board. Supply chains encountered widespread disruptions, digital channels have radically accelerated and a shift in consumer demand has led to the adoption of new technologies.

As we usher in the next year, a number of influencers — from C-suite executives to investors and analysts — are sharing their predictions for the retail industry, from current trends to long-term implications. Here, FN presents four key insights from some of the sector’s top thought leaders and members of Berns Communications Group’s Retail Influencer Network.

Dressing up will make a comeback.

In 2020, active and casual wear emerged as the work-from-home attire of choice. However, experts predict that the future of workwear will not be defined by lightweight leggings and shearling slippers.

According to First Insight CEO Greg Petro, employees will still prefer to work remotely amid the health crisis, but they’ll likely want to dress up and go back to the office on occasion.

What’s more, the continued rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has led to the optimism of a return to some type of normalcy. As a result, Threadstone Advisors managing director William Susman predicted a boost in the sales of dress apparel as spending shifts away from categories like home goods and outdoor accessories to activities like parties and get-togethers or traveling.

Small is the new big.

Despite the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar will survive. However, experts have pointed out that retailers will focus more on localized assortments and stores with smaller footprints as consumer shopping habits continue to change.

Sandra Campos, CEO of Project Verte and former CEO of Diane von Furstenberg, noted that companies will create micro-fulfillment centers in cities and malls to meet online shoppers’ delivery and pick-up demands.

In addition, Retail Minded founder Nicole Reyhle said that more consumers will choose to shop from local small businesses, which are increasingly embracing innovations that their big-name counterparts had the resources to adopt earlier in the year.

Shoppers want more than just discounts.

Amid a surge in the outbreak, many nonessential retailers across the country have been forced to temporarily shutter their locations once again, while health authorities have advised Americans against congregating in stores during the holiday season.

But once shelter-in-place orders are lifted and shops open back up, Trove founder and CEO Andy Ruben predicted an “all-out battle for foot traffic.” Retailers and brands, he explained, will be judged by the early traffic and sales numbers they generate — similar to how Black Friday results are viewed as a gauge of success during the fourth quarter. However, he said that it will take more than just promotions and markdowns to lure in customers. Brands must consider offering special incentives like gift cards in exchange for resale trade-ins and rewards through loyalty programs.

Omnichannel is still king.

For years, omnichannel has been among retail’s biggest buzzwords, but the pandemic has imposed new challenges to integrating the online and offline shopping ecosystem.

Retail Technology magazine publisher Miya Knights noted that mobile will be the ultimate battleground, accounting for 45% of all e-commerce sales next year. She added that apps, which deliver higher engagement and conversion, currently offer a more intuitive and feature-rich customer experience that can be merged with the sensory advantages of the in-store experience.

Moreover, said PredictSpring founder and CEO Nitin Mangtani, curbside pickup and ship-from-store services will exceed orders fulfilled from warehouses in major metropolitan areas, as brands create more smaller-format fulfillment centers.

Plus, more brand manufacturers are expected to sell directly to consumers as the so-called MTC trend gains traction, explained Forrester Research principal analyst Sucharita Kodali.