2021 and the Face of Retail – Forever Changed

2021 and The Face of Retail - Forever Changed

(TargetLiberty.org) – If you work in retail the chances are this hasn’t been the best year of your life. Between the economic downturn and the tangled mess of lockdowns and restrictions that have kept thousands of stores closed much of the year, it’s been a terrible time for the sector. And, unfortunately, if you’re expecting things to go back to normal in 2021 you’re probably going to be sadly disappointed. On the bright side, while post-Covid retail might be different from the way it was before, there’s no reason for it to be worse. So how will retail look when the dust settles?

  • Delivery is here to stay. You can get just about anything delivered now, and you can get it fast. Services like InstaCart and Hello Fresh existed before the pandemic, but their popularity exploded in 2020. A lot of people have realized that they don’t need to spend an hour or two every Saturday grocery shopping; they can have all their meals delivered as kits every week, or order groceries and have them brought to the door a couple of hours later. We might have been forced to use these services by lockdown, but we’re used to them now – and we like them. Online retailers are adapting fast, buying up unused space in conventional stores to use as local fulfillment centers with last-mile delivery; the goal is that, when you order online, you’ll get it in hours not days.
  • Buying is blurring. A lot of goods are turning into services. That business model started with software – paying a monthly subscription instead of buying an expensive package like MS Office or Photoshop – but it’s spreading fast. Some leading clothing stores are already doing a growing business in lightly-used clothes, mostly eCommerce returns, and electronics and tool manufacturers are getting into it, too.
  • Cash isn’t king anymore. In 2020, nobody wants to handle a grubby dollar bill that might be crawling with coronaviruses. Instead, cards – and especially contactless – have become everyone’s go-to payment method. That’s going to stay, because it isn’t just more hygienic than cash; it’s also faster and more reliable. No more fumbling for change; just tap, beep and go.

It looks like 2021 is going to be a year of significant change for retail. Old business models, including many that had been fading for years, will be abruptly killed off. New ones will emerge. Some will fail; some will succeed beyond our wildest dreams, but shopping is never going to be the same again.

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