Retailers re-energize in 2010

For those strong national and international brands that leaned out their operations, shifted merchandising to address new consumer attitudes (demanding both value and luxury), and for those who held back expansion and renovation plans during the steep slide of the past 18 months, 2010 is looking brighter.

In working with leaders of brands across fashion, food, and service retail, I hear some common themes. Survivors feel stronger and fitter than they did going into the recession, and more confident about their ability to change and move into the future. They are more in tune and focused on the behavior and psyche of their customers. They have adopted new technologies for more streamlined operations, and are focusing investment on enhanced customer experience and competitive advantage.

15th Avenue Coffee & Tea - Starbucks local coffee shop concept

Store numbers and size are down – and look for this to be a long term trend. Retailers are expecting higher productivity for every store, and will move quickly to close an underperforming location. Larger stores are looking at smaller formats, small stores are looking at densifying offerings. All retailers are integrating online shopping with in-store experience – it’s not one or the other, it’s both, and they are seeking the best integration strategies in providing all options, seamlessly, in responding to new customer expectations.

Anthropologie - localized design, multilayered merchandising concepts

The bar has lowered on barriers to sale – if a customer doesn’t believe in the value of offering, if they are inconvenienced, if the offering doesn’t fit their requirements precisely, they are willing to wait – or find it elsewhere. Loyalty is down, and customer loyalty programs are being enriched to compensate.

The challenges over the past year have strengthened those that are willing to respond without hesitation, for those that understand that today and the future require continual adaptation, for those that take on these challenges as opportunities to grow stronger.