2021 was another bumpy year for retail.
When stores re-opened after the last UK lockdown, shoppers returned enthusiastically to the high street and physical retail has enjoyed a relatively good year since then.
But the effects of lockdown had already ushered in changes to the way consumers shop – such as the rapid switch to online retail. Many of these changes were simply an acceleration of trends already happening – trends which will continue to impact on retailers into 2022 and beyond.
As we head into the new year, we take a closer look at the direction of travel for the high street and ask; how can stores capitalise on the changing nature of shopping?
Trends impacting on retail in 2022
If the last two years have taught the retail industry anything, it’s to deal with life-changing upheaval and to get smart about finding opportunity.
Here are seven key trends that may impact on your strategy for 2022:
1. Store closures. Physical retail stores that are still standing after the past two years have done incredibly well to survive the storm. While restrictions continue to come and go on high ticket items such as travel, the consumer bounce is likely to continue, but there’s little doubt that we will see further closures this year. It’s more important than ever to continue attracting shoppers – and enticing them to return – through creative promotions and eye-catching displays.
2. Upcycling and sustainability. The next decade will see a surge in consumer consciousness around the environment, climate and sustainability. And nowhere is this more apparent in the retail sector than in the rise of upcycling and resale sites such as Depop – which, along with other global online marketplaces such as The RealReal and Mercari, is growing 11 times faster than traditional retail. Upcycling, in which consumers can buy pre-loved items, is the sustainable way for shoppers to keep their looks fresh, without the ethical concerns around fast fashion. Such is the attraction of upcycling and resale, particularly among Gen Z consumers, that many established retailers have launched their own resale programmes over the past 12 months, including Patagonia, Levi’s, Burberry and Gucci, and we’re likely to see others follow suit into 2022.
This focus on re-use can filter through to in-store consumables such as product marketing materials and print. There are now sustainable paper and ink alternatives for most print materials, while recyclable and re-usable materials can form the basis of most displays. Think about your own displays; can you create something fresh from your pre-used print products? Use clever lighting to produce different results?
Lateral thinking around your print delivery process can also help with reducing your overall environmental impact. Can you receive your print products into your central distribution centre and send them out with your goods to stores?
3. Speedy – and clear – delivery. Many shoppers choose to buy products online based on when they can be delivered, as much as what’s on offer. It’s something Amazon cottoned onto early on, and during the pandemic they spent millions expanding their delivery fleets.
Control over delivery times (and costs) are likely to become even more critical as people return more regularly to the office.
4. Returns. The flip side of delivery is returns – and for retailers who split between in-store and online shopping, returns will take on greater importance in 2022. Many shoppers say that difficulty returning items bought online puts them off buying from a retailer’s website – so making the returns process as easy as possible is critical.
But there’s also an opportunity to build returns into the in-store experience. Make returning products in-store as easy as possible, and shoppers will be attracted to visit – and hopefully, take the opportunity to shop around at the same time. Think carefully about where your returns counter is positioned, consider how to place promotions nearby, and use directional signage to get people in, and through as easily as possible.
5. Stores within stores. Over recent years we’ve seen a number of interesting retail acquisitions, that have allowed retail groups to consolidate their physical estates – think Sainsbury’s deals with Argos and Habitat. With the financial impact of Covid still challenging many retailers, could we see more acquisitions or concession agreements between non-competing retailers? It certainly provides reasons for a broader range of shoppers to visit stores.
6. Experiential. The multi-sensory experience of in-store retail is one characteristic that online retail can’t replicate. ‘Experiential’ marketing – in which stores immerse shoppers in the brand with exciting experiences – is likely to grow in popularity in 2022 as retailers look for fresh new ways to bring people in store. Read our blog for ideas to bring experiential marketing into your store.
7. Unmanned stores. Amazon Fresh was the first retailer to introduce the concept of unmanned stores to the UK in 2021. Shoppers scan a unique QR code to enter a store, technology detects when they take, or return products to shelves, and when they leave, the total cost is charged to their Amazon account. Such is the success of the concept, that Morrisons and Tesco have announced plans to follow suit soon.
Do you need help with your in-store planning for 2022?
If you are considering ways to capitalise on new retail trends in 2022, Cestrian can help. Please get in touch with our retail team.