This holiday season, the plethora of online shopping is already proving to be exhausting. To ease checkout and discourage store crowding, high end retailers -- typically rely on brick and mortar spectacles, decorations and enthusiastic store associates -- are offering "gifting experts" to ease the lift.
The role of the retail associate has historically been focused on store upkeep or helping customers. With the pandemic's lockdowns earlier this year, many retailers have found opportunities in asking their employees to adapt to their new hybrid online-brick and mortar strategy. These days, many workers are juggling fulfilling online orders, enforcing safety protocols and taking on virtual customer service duties.
Rite Aid's rebranding effort showcases the drugstore industry's ongoing need to stay relevant. Thanks to disruptors' arrival in recent years, chains like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have found even more reason to elevate their services and modernize their stores. Rite Aid's new strategy is yet another example of national pharmacies attempting to stay relevant in an increasingly digitized world.
While online sales are projected to rise over the holidays, many big-box retailers are still preparing for a rush of in-store traffic. So ahead of the holidays, many big-box retailers like Walmart and Target are making some tech upgrades in stores. To ensure customers who do shop in-store can get in and out while coming into contact with as few people as possible, retailers including Target and Walmart are adding more places to checkout through the store, as well as adding contactless payment options. They're also making upgrades to their store fulfillment services by making it easier for customers to adjust curbside or buy online pickup in-store orders within the retailers' app, and giving customers more contactless ways to pick up those items in stores.
After years of focusing on e-commerce shoppers in the U.S., Afterpay is adding an in-store installment payment options through its app. Retailers like Forever 21 and Levi's have signed on as partners, allowing Afterpay users to split their in-store purchase into four payments. This comes as retailers are trying to find ways to regrow sales -- and alternative payments solutions are clamoring to become leaders in the space.
Despite e-commerce’s rise, retailers are still betting that there's one transaction people will prefer to do in person: returns. Last week, Staples announced that it was partnering with Optoro, a returns processing startup. These types of partnerships were already becoming more common before the coronavirus outbreak. But it’s unclear if they’ll actually lead to more sales.
Until now, same-day delivery was a novelty feature retailers offered for a premium fee. However, the latest messenger service rollouts of Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Sephora may finally usher in an era of standard 2-hour delivery. The issue, however, will be whether the quick turnaround options can scale widely enough to become profitable outside of busy shopping periods.
Party City’s annual October Halloween pop ups have been scaled back by about 90% this year. It also plans to hired 20% fewer seasonal workers. The party supply chain's decision, which counts on the holiday's sales for 20% of its annual revenue, could signal a similar fate for other seasonal pop-ups this year.
Tech solutions providers have accelerated partnerships with retailers to implement new AI tools beyond autonomous checkout. In recent months, vendors have announced tools for more targeted in-store marketing and social distance compliance as foot traffic picks up again.
Amazon is about to open its first Fresh store, which lets customers put items in a cart and then leave without checking out. Meanwhile, this month, convenience store chain Circle K became the latest retailer to announce a new "grab and walk out" payments rollout across thousands of its stores. There's a growing race by retailers to implement this new type of cashier-less technology.
Less than two years into the opening of Hudson Yards, one of the most expensive real estate projects in the country, the development's shopping center is losing its anchor tenant. Last week, Neiman Marcus, which filed for bankruptcy in May, announced that it would be closing its Hudson Yards store, among other locations. As Hudson Yards considers a new type of tenant to take over the space, which spans three floors, each type of tenant comes with its own set of drawbacks.
Stores aren’t dead, but they aren’t exactly alive either. As stores across the U.S. are currently in phased reopenings, many retailers are still in disputes or negotiations over rent payments during Covid-19 closures and are discussing ways to rethink payments for a future with dramatically lowered foot traffic. While some have been able to negotiate with landlords and receive discounts on rent, others are facing landlords playing hardball, who are citing their own mortgage payments.
The shift in real estate planning, along with healthy online sales, has changed the way DTC brands think about real estate. It's also why the role of experiential stores -- those like Showfields, Neighborhood Goods and B8ta -- could be even more important to brands when it comes to awareness and conversion.
As retailers seek to make greater inroads into health care, many of them have unveiled aggressive plans to launch dozens -- if not hundreds -- of their own primary care clinics over the coming years. Whichever of them builds the most successful chain of clinics has the potential to win over a very lucrative share of shoppers' wallets.
As part of Nike's plan to increase the percentage of its sales that come from its direct-to-consumer, the company has been opening a slew of new stores in order over the past couple of years to boost sales. Now, the company is unveiling a new retail format that it hopes will make its stores a more regular destination for shoppers. Called Nike Rise, they serve as a hub for local sports enthusiasts, by hosting new in-store events as well as through the addition of new app features.
With in-person sales largely out of the picture this holiday season, brands must adapt to deliver the frictionless experiences that online consumers expect and demand.
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