The year is almost done — in less than a week the ball will be dropped and the new year and new decade will be underway. But before we shut the door on 2019, it bears taking a moment to note how much the world of retail has changed in the last year, a fitting capstone on a decade that has seen retail as the American consumer commonly knew it taken to the ground and rebuilt nearly from the foundations. In 2019 Barneys New York went bust, as did Forever21, Gymboree, Charlotte Russe, Payless and Diesel Jeans, among others. They join a long list of once massive brands that have fallen to the reformation around digital and omnichannel shopping habits — Sears, Toys R Us, Borders, Sports Authority, Radio Shack.  

It was not all bad news, however, as while some players were coming down in the world, others were rising. Amazon is, of course, the first name that comes to mind — but the 2010s have also seen big multi-billion dollar investments in digitization from both Walmart and Target, both brands racking up massive growth in the last several years, as well as the rise of digitally-native brands that a decade ago almost no one had ever heard of, including Uber, Airbnb, Rent the Runway, Warby Parker. They are household names today, as well as major forces that reset the direction of their entire vertical.

And for all the change that has come up until now, experts and professional prognosticators think that in some sense we haven’t seen anything yet. There is no crystal ball, of course, but a lot of interesting pokers in the fire.  Will cashierless checkout become the new retail norm, will department stores finally sign off for good, will all commerce be omnicommerce, will robots someday be in charge of most of our retail experiences? We don’t know — but the way the trendlines are going, we know we’ll be watching avidly next year for the answers.

But for all we don’t know, there is plenty we do, mostly because we spent much of 2019 talking to some of the more interesting and forward-thinking retailers out there about how they got where they are today and where they hope to be going tomorrow. As it turns out, they are a pretty insightful group with some interesting lessons in retail reinvention to teach.
Read more about the five lessons in retail renovation from 2019 on the website HERE

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