Trends & ForecastsNovember 19, 2019

5 Trends in Independent Retail to Watch This Holiday Season

By ARNOLD ENGEL | CEO and Co-founder of Tundra

The holiday season is tremendously important to independent retailers and the companies that stock their shelves — according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), many retailers report making 30% of their entire year’s sales in November and December. For independent businesses, a keen understanding of key trends during this period is imperative as it can help you ride the wave of an important sales driver or shift strategies to protect your margins.

As our team works closely with our community of over 10,000 businesses to prepare for a lucrative fourth quarter, we thought we’d share a few interesting trends we’ve seen heading into the holiday season.

 

1. Businesses focus on sustainability

Consumers today care more about sustainability and want to support companies that thoughtfully consider their impact on the environment. More companies than ever are participating in the eco-friendly and zero-waste movement and we’ve noticed more activity around #tags like #zerowaste, #ecofriendly and #organic.

Retailers are stocking up on more plastic-free products, such as steel straws and bamboo toothbrushes. They’re also seeing rising demand for items that can replace single-use products — for example, reusable cloths which are designed to replace wipes and paper towels, or beeswax wraps which can replace plastic wraps for food. Even product packaging is trending toward sustainability, or even non-existence — zero waste retailers now offer filling stations where customers can bring their own containers and purchase products by weight.

For product manufacturers this holiday season, it’s a good time to highlight sustainable ingredients in your products and efforts you’ve made to reduce waste in standard manufacturing processes and product packaging.

 

2. Buying season shifting later

The retail sector has traditionally always talked about “Christmas in July” — when print media starts working on their holiday gift guides and companies start marketing their holiday collection and taking orders. However, as companies improve manufacturing and sourcing lead times, many merchants are able to make key buying decisions closer to the holiday season and are even able to quickly refresh fast-selling items during the season. We’re seeing seasonal purchasing trending much later this year — as close as six to eight weeks out. This shift allows retailers to be much more nimble and responsive to changes in demand as well as reduce their inventory carrying cost.

 

3. Words of wisdom matter this year

This year, retailers have been stocking up on items that carry faith-based or values-based messages such as Bible verses or inspirational quotes. Consumers have become more comfortable expressing their personal beliefs and values on what they wear and what they display in their home. We’ve seen a significant increase in the last couple of months in our available assortment for graphic tees, coffee mugs, and tote bags with inspirational sayings. Because these messages can be highly subjective, the key here is to know what resonates with your customer base to ensure you’re stocking up on the statements that are most meaningful to them.

 

4. Wholesale is shifting online

Wholesale is changing rapidly with retailers shifting to source more products online. Orders that used to be placed in person at trade shows twice a year are now made over the internet any day of the week. We’ve seen this shift firsthand as the number of products available on our platform has quickly grown to over 100,000. Suppliers that want to win in this new environment need to make sure they have an online wholesale order and fulfilment system in place that allows them to serve the new digitally-native retailer.

 

5. Sourcing moves closer to home

With the increased uncertainty over rising tariffs, buyers are looking to mitigate their risk by sourcing more of their holiday assortment from suppliers in the US and Canada. This also reduces the chance of products being stuck at the ports during the holiday season due to delays in clearing customs or labor disruptions. The added benefit of sourcing domestically is the higher level of confidence in product quality as well as the shorter lead times. Some of our top searched #tags include #madeinusa and #madeincanada as more of our North American buyers deliberately look for products made locally.

 


Arnold Engel is the CEO and co-founder of Tundra, the online marketplace where wholesale happens. After experiencing firsthand the structural inefficiencies that small business owners face in the wholesale market, Arnold and his wife, Katie Engel, founded Tundra to allow independent businesses to freely transact, scale and thrive. Today, thousands of businesses buy with confidence on Tundra with lowest direct pricing and free shipping on over 100,000 wholesale products.