This year has so far been an interesting one in the retail industry. The waters have been choppy at times, but those players – big and small – who are making strides toward a truly unified shopping experience are pulling ahead in the race for customer spending and loyalty. From testing new ways to shop in physical stores and digital channels to efforts involving sustainability and supply chain efficiency, some retailers are emerging as winners as others may start to fall behind.
SmartBrief readers have been following the news of the industry every day in our retail newsletters, and we compiled a list of the top-clicked retail stories from Q2 of this year. In this post, we take a look at some of the biggest industry trends from the second quarter of 2019 and what readers can expect going into the second half of the year.
How brick-and-mortar stores are shaping up in 2019
Walmart will spend $11 billion to remodel 500 stores this year with a focus on digital commerce and improving the supply chain, and Kohl’s will expand its Amazon returns program to all of its more than 1,150 stores starting this month. Meanwhile, Macy’s in-store Story concept shops are in full swing and Nordstrom is drawing interest in its merchandise-free Local stores that operate through what consultant Steve Dennis dubbed “harmonized retail.” As 2019 unfolds, retailers’ brick-and-mortar focus appears to be a healthy combination of strategic updates for unified shopping and experimentation.
Where we go from here: As more retailers incorporate elements of digital commerce into their physical stores and as more experiments like Macy’s Story concept and “harmonized retail” play out, it will be interesting to see what shoppers take to. Consumers are definitely hungry for new ways to shop and to streamline the experience of making purchases, but it is possible that they could become overwhelmed with too much change too quickly.
Homing in on tech and innovation for sustainability
So far, 2019 has seen retailers make significant investments in technology and innovation – particularly related to sustainability, efficiency and security. Adidas unveiled a shoe that is meant to be recycled over and over again earlier this year, and Target is working on a blockchain solution to manage its supply chain. Walmart’s artificial intelligence-enabled Retail Lab store in Long Island, N.Y., is allowing the retailer to test new ways to efficiently manage stores and cut costs, and news of IKEA’s digital-friendly logo makeover proved to be one of the most popular stories among SmartBrief’s retail readers this year.
Where we go from here: Consumers are ready for innovative efforts targeting efficiency and, especially, sustainability. The retailers who make an effort to make their businesses and products more sustainable are the ones who will get shoppers’ attention and loyalty. People want to make a difference and they’re willing to start with their daily habits, including how they shop – and retailers who help facilitate that will help themselves and their customers.
Crafting unique brand stories – for better or worse
SmartBrief’s retail readers were particularly interested in news involving brand stories in Q2. IKEA made a big splash with its “IKEA Real Life Series” campaign, which allowed shoppers to buy items from the living rooms of “Friends” and other iconic shows – the quarter’s second most-clicked story. Dollar General saw sales success while some rival discounters struggled, which drew interest in the retailer’s strategy. And Ollie’s Bargain Outlet’s unique e-commerce-free brand story also proved popular with readers, especially as the retailer exceeds $1 billion in annual sales. On the other hand, Sears’ brand story took another turn this quarter, as the ailing retailer revealed a new logo to mixed reviews.
Where we go from here: As the industry’s biggest seasons (back to school, holiday prep, holiday shopping) arrive, retail news will likely shift away from brand stories. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for retailers to keep telling theirs through interesting seasonal campaigns and seasonal strategies that bring success or failure. Particularly in the ad campaign department, as back to school and holiday shopping come into full swing, retailers are just getting started. It’s a fair bet that they’ve saved their best storytelling for the second half of the year.
That’s it for SmartBrief’s retail editor’s take for Q2. Be on the lookout for the Q3 editor’s take in a few months, and until then, take a look at the full list of SmartBrief’s top-clicked Q2 retail stories below.
Straight from the source – read the top retail headlines from the summer here.
Julia Russell is SmartBrief's resident retail expert. She has been editing NRF SmartBrief and other retail newsletters since 2013, and she produces custom content covering retail, media, technology and telecom.