It's obvious to say that 2020 was a strange year. A global pandemic turned everything upside down, and retail was no exception. In this week’s episode of the Modern Retail Podcast, a few members of the editorial team take a look ahead at what 2021 may have in store for the retail industry. We cover quite a bit -- from a quiet time for IPOs to a bill targeting e-commerce companies. But the one tying bind is that things are very different from what they were a year ago.
It's easy to talk about retail doom and gloom, given a nearly year-long shutdown for brick-and-mortar stores and bankruptcy filings by many big name retailers. But Shopify president Harley Finkelstein is bullish on the sector's resilience and potential -- especially in e-commerce, which has grown by double digits in 2020. "In many ways Shopify is a proxy for independent retail," Finkelstein said on the Modern Retail Podcast, adding that the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday this year generated $5 billion in sales on the platform.
The pandemic has quickly changed the typical office chair shopper. It's no longer entire companies investing in ergonomic seating, but individuals working from home. "Most consumers have never had to think about this type of product purchase before," Herman Miller Retail President Debbie Propst said on the Modern Retail Podcast. "They've relied on procurement teams or ergonomic specialists who have decided what chair you sit on while you're working." She spoke about how the brand has changed its program over the last nine months.
As the pandemic's third wave mounts, Clorox wipes are still a hot commodity -- the product's shortage is expected to last into the new year. That outsized demand has led to a bump in sales for the company overall, and a stock that's risen by a third this year. Clorox's general manager of DTC Jackson Jeyanayagam, who oversees new digital business ventures and brands for the CPG giant, said that the edge extended to hiring power. "Here I come at Clorox trying to sell someone to come from a Netflix, an Airbnb or Warby Parker or Peloton and come work for me at Clorox, which no one ever thinks of as DTC," Jeyanayagam said on the Modern Retail Podcast.
In Karla Gallardo's estimation, the world got tired of fast fashion just as the direct-to-consumer model was being proven out. "By 2010 there was fatigue, there was dissatisfaction with the quality," Galardo said on the Modern Retail Podcast. "A lot of of news was coming out in terms of the conditions of the factories where these products were made. There was an opportunity for something better right after that bubble burst." On this episode, she spoke about growing her brand and dealing with coronavirus-related hurdles.
With a pandemic driving its six brick-and-mortar stores to little use, lingerie company Adore Me has relied on a try-at-home model. "We basically send you a bunch of items, you decide what you keep, and you only pay for what you keep," Adore Me vp of growth Camille Kress said on the Modern Retail Podcast. On the program, she spoke about how the company has launched satellite brands and what its future store strategy may be.
GDP and unemployment are one set of statistics, but another way to measure the extent of the economic slowdown brought by the pandemic is a bit more mundane: Traffic. According to the maps and navigation app Waze, traffic was down around 70% in the early days of the crisis. "It was like a light switch," Suzie Reider, a managing director of global ads at Waze, said on the Modern Retail Podcast. She spoke about how businesses have slowly evolved over the last few months.
If you're going to hitch your company's wagon to another brand's success, Ikea isn't a bad choice. Semihandmade makes and sells cabinet doors for the giant retailer's fixtures, which can themselves be bought without the doors. For a small price increase, according to founder John McDonald, you get a big step up in quality. One big opportunity McDonald spots is the lack of name recognition beyond the top spot filled by Ikea. "There's Ikea in the U.S. and then there's 50 others made by the big guys," McDonald said on the Modern Retail Podcast.
Barbie is Mattel's most iconic brand, but it has more than 400 others that COO Richard Dickson is, in his own words, looking to revive. In an age where smartphones and games like Fortnite present stiff competition for analog toys, Dickson says the company needs to create media everywhere it can. "Continuing to be where our consumers are means, today, being everywhere," Dickson said on the Modern Retail Podcast.
Bloomscape founder Justin Mast joined the Modern Retail podcast and spoke about all things flora. The DTC plant company ships flowers and other living things nationwide, and has seen a spike in demand of late. The company also just acquired the plant care app Vera. On the podcast, Justin explained how the company has gone about things and its future plans.
Thrive Market, which first launched in 2014, had been growing at a rate of 40% a year before the pandemic. Now, with new customers joining the membership-based online grocery service, that growth rate has more than doubled to 90% a year, according to the company's co-founder and CTO Sasha Siddhartha. "We were already a digital native experience, so there were lots of parts of the business that scaled naturally," Siddhartha said on the latest episode of the Modern Retail Podcast. He spoke about how the company has adapted to the new e-commerce heavy environment.
Truff considers itself a luxury DTC hot sauce brand. And one of its most popular social media channels is TikTok. In fact, co-founders Nick Guillen and Nick Ajluni said their company is the biggest hot sauce brand on TikTok, with 69,000 followers and nearly one million likes as of this writing.On this episode of the Modern Retail Podcast, the co-founders spoke about growing the company its strategic retail decisions.
Jonathan Wahl sees the boom in kitchenware companies as a good thing for the sector as a whole. "Seeing others recognize the same opportunity reaffirms that yes, we're on the right track," Wahl, who co-founded the cookware company Abbio last year with his brother, said on the Modern Retail Podcast. On this episode, he spoke about growing a brand during coronavirus and the myriad other kitchenware brands available online.
2020 hasn't been a good year to travel or go on vacation, and Americans are spending more on home improvement instead. Furniture brand Article was lucky enough to corner that market with a DTC model that eschews the need for expensive floorspace that has gone unused for several months this year. Its director of marketing Duncan Blair joined Modern Retail Podcast and spoke about how the company has grown and why it's not opening a store anytime soon.
Sam Dennigan launched Strong Roots with a single item -- sweet potato fries -- in Ireland in 2015. The frozen vegetables company has since raised $18.3 million from private equity firm Goode Partners to expand into the U.S., where Dennigan is now based. His experience on both sides of the Atlantic helps him highlight some of the competitive differences among markets. He was the latest guest on the Modern Retail Podcast.
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