Retail is alive and well, but changing rapidly. That’s the key message from this year’s NRF Big Show, which this week took place in New York.
Running from January 12-14, this year’s show was entitled NRF 2020 Vision and drew a record crowd of over 40,000 attendees from 100 countries representing 16,000 retailers – all of whom gathered to better understand the current state of retail and the future ahead.
Here’s a recap of just some of the highlights.
Alive and well
Opening the conference on January 12, NRF Board Chairman Chris Baldwin told attendees retail was alive and well, but changing quickly. He noted massive investment had been made in technology over recent years and for many retailers that was paying off, particularly in the arena of customer satisfaction.
Backing this claim, he cited NRF statistics that indicate 83 per cent of customers say convenience is more important than it was five years ago, and 60 per cent say retail’s investments have improved their shopping experience.
On the customer’s terms
Nordstrom co-president Erik Nordstrom took to the stage for an interview about serving the customer on their terms.
He noted digital versus online was barely relevant with a consumer. Instead, customers go back and forth looking for a singular experience.
More than half of Nordstrom sales have an online component and over one-third of its online sales involve a store experience, but the reason for having a physical store has changed significantly.
Nordstrom explained stores need to be more experiential and not just about picking up an item. In Nordstrom’s case, that’s led to innovations like a bar in a flagship store shoe department.
“People are smiling,” he said. “Strangers are talking to each other. We think a lot about shoes. I don’t know why it took us so long to put drinking and shoes together, but it’s a great combination.”
Syncing with today’s consumer
Today’s consumer is more diverse than ever before, and Bonobos and Universal Standard executives offered an insight into meeting that challenge.
They noted the industry is in the grip of change where inclusion will be part of the conversation – whether it relates to body size, gender identity, culture, or politics.
“I think what’s interesting is how fashion can help express the entirety of who they are,” Bonobos CEO Micky Onvural reflected. “We want to create a world where we all fit.”
Universal Standard provides clothing lines ranging in size from 00 to 40, with co-founder Alexandra Waldman noting retail was at a “tipping point”.
“Everything is about to be different, and we want to be part of that change. We want to spearhead the inclusion of everyone in the conversation, which has never been done before.”
A journey to sustainability
Sustainability is becoming a major driver of consumer behaviour as customers bring their ethical expectations to the purchasing table.
Retail executives from cosmetic co Lush and lifestyle brand West Elm took part in a conversation on the issue, sharing their journey of sustainability and covering concepts like ethical sourcing, handcrafted products, fair trade and reduced packaging.
Both noted the importance of building relationships with suppliers and reflected how their commitment had evolved and grown.
“It’s been an evolution, and it’s been a journey,” West Elm’s Jennifer Gootman explained. “I think for a lot of retailers that are really interested in this space, that’s important to recognize. Not everything happens at once. You can evolve and learn and figure out what’s material to your business and develop it from there.”