Can you believe it? 2017 is more than halfway in the books. It seems like just yesterday we were discussing the potential impact of the presidential election, evaluating whether or not Black Friday as we know it is coming to an unceremonious end, and fawning over HBO’s latest and greatest addition to prestige television (and, of course, how it pertains to retail.)
But, alas, time marches on, and 2017 has been one busy year. As such, we’ve selected the most interesting stories of the past six months. They may not be the ones that generate the most headlines, but they, in our opinion, are the most illuminative about where we are in the world of retail today.
Amazon made two major shakeups to the retail world this June after purchasing grocery chain Whole Foods and unveiling Prime Wardrobe.
With the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon adds a huge network of stores and infrastructure to help broaden the company’s distribution network and product offerings, almost certainly will bolster its Prime subscriber base (due to perks sure to come with grocery shopping), and may begin selling retail merchandise and even groceries at near-zero gross margins.
Amazon Prime Wardrobe, on the other hand, will take the risk out of online clothes shopping (i.e., items not fitting right) by allowing customers to order clothing without actually buying it. Amazon will only charge them for the items they keep. Sounds familiar doesn't it?
Says the New York Times: “By the end of this year, analysts expect that Amazon will become the largest apparel retailer in the United States, at a time when many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are closing stores or filing for bankruptcy.”
Apple hasn’t been immune to the brick-and-mortar retail downturn, and the company’s decision to redesign their iconic storefronts is particularly noteworthy. For some time now, we at Celect have been championing the “store of the future” concept. And while many smaller retailers have rethought their physical space, none, obviously, have the cache of Apple. It’s the biggest signal yet for brick-and-mortar retailers.
Contrary to popular belief, brick-and-mortar retail is not a zero-sum game. It’s not stay in business or close up shop. Rather, the future could lie in shared retail space.
What is it? A shared retail space is a single brick-and-mortar location divided between retailers with complimentary—but not competing—product lines. Think a chocolatier, a cheese maker, and a wine seller all housed in one location, all splitting the rent. Not only do retailers benefit from the reduced overhead, consumers enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping among various outlets, to this point one of the single biggest advantages of e-commerce retail.
Could this be where we are headed? This could be a great option for some retailers that want (or need) to trim down existing store space.
It’s such an absurd headline. Express, the clothing retailer, offering whiskey subscriptions. But if you dig into it, it makes a lot of sense.
As we wrote back in February: “Whiskey has become the drink of choice of self-perceived sophisticates with a couple of dollars to spend. So, it shouldn’t be all that shocking then that Express, the clothing retailer that prides itself as “the style source for fashion-forward young women and men, for everything from first job interviews to weekend parties,” has started a whiskey club. After all, doesn’t sophistication naturally extend to fashion?”
Express is taking a far greater interest in understanding their customer. And that is the most important thing retailers can do in 2017.