What’s next for retail in 2019?

Four trends Toronto-based Trend Hunter predicts will dominate the sector over the next year.
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Toronto-based Trend Hunter has released its annual trends report for 2019, unveiling the trends that are expected to dominate nearly every sector in the coming year, including food, wellness, marketing and entertainment.

In retail, the insights and research company has boiled down the biggest anticipated changes of 2019 into four broad trends, from displaying products outside of the usual confines of the retail store to zero-waste shops (a movement that ties back to larger changes across the marketing and consumer landscape).

Retail Retreat

Trend Hunter finds that brands have begun displaying more products outside the store setting, creating a “fun retreat” for customers. For example, special showrooms and product displays are being erected in alternative spaces (including hotels and apartment units), with many of them offering a “retreat” for rest and relaxation. This trend is being driven by consumers’ desire for retail experiences that extend beyond pure product purchasing, the company notes.

As a result, consumers can expect to find more bespoke furniture showrooms, experiential furniture stores and branded boutique hotels, in the year ahead. One example is U.S.-based furniture retailer West Elm (a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma), which has recently entered the hotels business, with some of them doubling as furniture showrooms.

Retail Tech Directory

Stores will continue to leverage technology to enable customers and find and learn about products with ease and convenience, Trend Hunter predicts. These changes are happening within bricks-and-mortar stores, which have proven to be more resilient than previously expected (think Toys “R” Us and Staples), as retailers rediscover the importance of in-store shopping experiences.

When it comes to making improvements in-store, tech is the obvious choice. In 2019, the report notes that consumers will see more tech-enabled store enhancement, such as interactive retail robots, in-store product-detecting apps and tablet-connected shopping carts. For example, in November, Loblaw introduced a “shop and scan” self-checkout app, enabling customers to scan their items as they shop in eight retail locations.

Zero Waste Retail

Over the last year, sustainability has taken on greater meaning for brands, as consumers become more concerned about their environmental footprint. Retailers have not been immune to this trend, according to the report, which notes that small retailers are building new businesses around the idea of waste reduction (either through minimizing or repurposing waste).

“This shift serves two purposes,” write the authors of the report. “It gives the retailers in question leverage over larger and more financially secure corporations, while offering consumers more incentive to shop local.”

The Unpacked Halifax pop-up shop in Halifax, which sells food and home products, including shampoo, soap and detergent, without the usual packaging, is Canada’s first zero-waste store on the East Coast, according to Trend Hunter. Expect other stores, such as zero-waste cafes, sustainability-focused salons, to continue growing in popularity this year.

Browse Buying

Finally, the insights company sees “sprawling, multi-option retail spaces” as speaking “to the Gen Z way of shopping.” The onset of digital has shoppers demanding convenience and speed in retail. However, when it comes to Gen Z, “leisurely in-store shopping ushers in sprawling spaces designed for browsing,” the report finds.

Among the types of stores popping up are “glamorous” ecommerce flagships, ecommerce bargain shops, and “sprawling” accessories stores. One Canadian example is Ardene, which is set to continue opening a series of large-format stores.

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