Hello and welcome to RETHINK Retail’s Year in Review.

Join us as we rundown the year with clips from episodes past.

Featuring commentary from Ricardo Belmar, Carol Spieckerman, AJ Mak and Chris Ressa.

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Hosted by Julia Raymond

Written and produced by Gabriella Bock

Edited by Trenton Waller

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hello and welcome to RETHINK Retail’s Year in Review. And boy has it been a wild year. 

 

When I think back to the beginning of the year, I’m amazed at how much this industry has changed. 

 

Just two months before the Javits Center in New York City was transformed into a temporary hospital, we, along with thousands of others, gathered to hear, see and learn about the future of retail at the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show. 

 

In, perhaps, a twist of irony, the big show was branded “2020 Vision.” 

 

We heard from retail thought leaders from the world’s biggest brands like Starbucks, Adidas, L’Oreal, Sam’s Club, and Target. We dipped our hands into complimentary candy jars set up outside the conference rooms and joined the scores of other journalists for lunch in the press room. 

 

After day two wrapped, my colleagues and I took the jaunt over to Hudson Yards, where we were preparing to host a dinner and panel discussion at Neiman Marcus’ beautiful in-store restaurant. We made new friends with our table mates as we shared the new insights we heard learned and bonded over complaints about our aching feet. After the discussion, business cards and LinkedIn usernames were exchanged as guests gathered at the bar for a final round of drinks.

 

We were delighted

 

The following day, I visited a few retail spaces in the area, including the Levi’s Store in Times Square. I watched as in-store tailors embroidered beautiful stitch work into custom orders. 

 

At the Glossier flagship in Soho, I climbed the stairs to find myself immersed in a world of cotton candy clouds where matching products and performative customer service were woven together to produce a shopping experience attracting beauty gurus from near and far. I also found myself questioning more and more the narrative that physical retail was dead. With each store tour, I saw that  the opposite was true: retail was alive and buzzing all around me 

 

We returned from NRF week inspired by all we saw – and wanted to see more. We were ready to push back against this doom and gloom narrative about physical retail. So my team and I got to work producing a print magazine showcasing the best and brightest brick-and-mortar stores across the globe.

 

When the pandemic hit, we, like so many of our friends in the retail industry, had to take a step back to re-strategize. We were in uncharted waters and, truth be told, the optimism we felt during NRF week was drifting further and further away as reports of staff furloughs and store closings continued to dominate our newsfeeds. 

 

But then, a shift occurred. And as the world became used to our new reality, many brands and businesses found their stride as they rolled out new pickup and delivery services, and solutions such as contact-tracing technology for workplaces and warehouses, and sanitizing robots.

 

By summer, restrictions were lifted and non-essential stores had reopened in most of the western world. And then, retailers had a new challenge to face after protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis rocked the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. In response, scores of brands published statements and social media posts in support of the protestors as they call for the end of racism, bigotry, and violent policing.

 

Since then, we’ve seen new diversity and inclusion initiatives from top brands, including Starbucks’ pledge to increase the percentage of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to 30% at the corporate level by 2025. 

 

Switching gears, one of the biggest winners of 2020 had to be the grocery sector – and with that came big wins for Instacart. Last year, when we spoke about grocery delivery, we were apprehensive about whether or not consumers would trust strangers to pick out their meat and produce. Now, Instacart has paired up with the nation’s biggest grocers, as well as Target and Walmart. And other retailers signed on this year, too. Big Lots, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and, most recently, Sephora are now all offering same-day delivery in partnership with Instacart. 

 

Speaking of Sephora, the beauty industry saw some stellar innovation this year. In August, we spoke with MAC Cosmetics VP of Brand Technology, Chris Silver, who touched on the importance of using intelligence technology to create personalized experiences that help cultivate a better relationship with the consumer. In the fall, MAC, in collaboration with our parent company Valtech, unveiled its New York City concept store equipped with AR-enabled mirrors that allow shoppers to virtually try-on products in-store. 

 

We saw other innovative technologies roll out this year, such as Lowe’s for pros JobSight, and learned from Petco’s VP of Media about how the company transformed many of its stores into local distribution centers during the height of the pandemic lockdowns.

 

As we moved closer to the end of the year, consumers, forecasters, and even retailers themselves were eagerly anticipating the rollout of this year’s holiday shopping season. Fears of a Shippaggedon spurred by the increase of online shopping had some holiday sales beginning in October this year, and retailers like Target and Walmart rolled out their BlackFriday deals in the beginning of November. 

During this year’s Black Friday, Cyber Week, we saw a mass adoption of curbside pickup — something that last year’s guests were pretty split on. 

 

As we move into the final weeks of the year, I want to thank all of our listeners who tuned in, as well as all of our wonderful guests who took time out of their schedules to come on the show and share their insights with us. We’re on break for the holidays but we will see you again on Jan. 4th for a Special 2021 Predictions episode. 

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