Retail in 2021
27 : 12 : 21

Community and responsibility underpinned retail in 2021, from eco-practices and traceability to peer-led selling and the protection of indie stores.

The Trend: Eco-venience Retail

Shaping by Eyla Llarena Aliaño proposes a different lifestyle where environmental care in consumption is a priority

The pandemic’s acceleration of e-commerce and global demand for expedited delivery was the inspiration behind Eco-venience Retail, our retail macrotrend placing eco-conscious practices at the centre of future retail operations.

The imperative was to establish systems and processes that are more responsive, streamlined and in tune with shoppers’ ever-more eco-conscious mindsets. ‘We’re going to see a lot of innovation come out of the need to retain convenience without the negative environmental impact that we've had,’ says Tyler Chaffo, manager of global sustainability, intelligent labels at Avery Dennison.

In 2022, retail brands will start to establish supply chains and manufacturing at a neighbourhood level, making last-mile logistics circular. Shoppers’ spending impact will become more transparent than ever, while opportunities to elevate carbon-negative customer experiences will multiply. Eco-venience Retail will offer a fresh framework for supply chains, logistics and consumer reach in the years ahead, as convenience and care for the planet and environment become ever-more intertwined.

The Big Idea: Influ-seller platforms

Merging content creation and curation, this year we examined the rise of influ-seller apps and platforms that allow brands to maximise the reach of micro-influencers, tastemakers and even internal staff through retailtainment formats.

Using live-streaming or social media as their base, these peer-led modes of Community Commerce include Hero, a live-stream platform connecting customers directly with store staff in physical stores, so they can provide inspiration, advice and immediately shoppable content.

Elsewhere, Emcee is embracing influential content curators, allowing them to edit a shopfront with products they love from multiple brands, alongside their own pieces they might like to sell such as vintage T-shirts or sneakers. If a browser clicks to buy a brand’s product, that curator – known as an Emcee – will receive a commission for fuelling the sale.

Other organisations are helping brands to find such selling talent. Buywith scouts potential presenters from existing platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, and transforms them into the faces of shared shopping experiences for brands such as Forever21, Boohoo and MAC. ‘We are not scouting specifically for big influencers because it’s not necessarily that they would be good at live-stream shopping,’ explains Adi Ronen, CEO of Buywith.


The Campaign: Buy Toronto Time

Buy Toronto Time by Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA)

In June, we spotlighted a campaign from Toronto, Canada, that sought to protect independent businesses across the city from the continuing economic impact of Covid-19.

Using evocative iconography associated with death, Buy Toronto Time sought to encourage citizens to shop local and keep the city’s smaller businesses alive. Involving more than 400 businesses across the city, the campaign was led by Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and saw the deployment of city-wide billboards and posters featuring a tombstone bearing each business’s name and opening date, but a blank ‘death’ date to warn of its possible closure.

Through the simple tombstone motif, the campaign evokes the potential loss of neighbourhood retailers – and a sense of urgency for shopper support. John Kiru, executive director of TABIA, explains: ‘With a possible end to the pandemic in sight, Torontonians may think that means all businesses will live on. But the fact is they need support now more than ever.’

The campaign is particularly memorable for the importance it places on cities and local communities to retain Micro-mmunity Retail – a healthy mix of stores and services that celebrate an area’s personality, diversity and history.

The Interview: Niall Murphy on tracing every product ever made

Denim Reimagined by The R Collective and Levi’s, in collaboration with Avery Dennison and Evrythng Denim Reimagined by The R Collective and Levi’s, in collaboration with Avery Dennison and Evrythng

In March we spoke to Niall Murphy, CEO of Evrythng, a company using digital product IDs to give businesses a greater understanding of how their supply chains work, where their products go and who’s buying them.

‘Right now, about four trillion things are made and sold every year globally, but it’s extremely difficult to know where things are at any given time, who’s got them and what they’re made from,’ explains Murphy. With the tagline ‘Know what your products know’, Evrythng aims to give retailers and brands greater clarity, but also points to future ways of enhancing relationships with shoppers by promoting authenticity and loyalty.

Working with the likes of Puma and Ralph Lauren, the company’s digital ID system allows shoppers to scan a product and learn about its manufacturing, but also how to recycle it or even its resell value. ‘Once an item has been digitised and is carrying a visible identity [brands can] engage in and promote future secondary market transactions; they might be getting data or revenue out of it – or both.’

The Space: Burberry’s nomadic island installation

The Imagined Landscapes Jeju by Burberry, South Korea
Thomas’s Cafe at The Imagined Landscapes Jeju by Burberry, South Korea
The Imagined Landscapes Jeju by Burberry, South Korea

While the steady return to bricks-and-mortar retail in 2021 has given rise to Contemplative Stores and Third-space Storefronts where shops double as leisure spaces – it was Burberry’s remote pop-up that offered a teaser of a far-flung future for retail brands.

Tuning into the potential for globetrotting Nomadic Brands, as explored in Eco-venience Retail, the mirrored structure appeared at the foot of the Hallasan mountain on Jeju Island, South Korea. Combining travel, design and fashion, The Imagined Landscapes Jeju was a temporary installation that sought to attract luxury consumers in search of more immersive, outdoor experiences.

In this vein, the mirrored structure of the building resembled the topographic contours of a map, referencing the theme of travel and exploration, while inside it sold an edited selection of puffer jackets and trench coats. A viewing platform allowed visitors to admire the volcanic island’s landscape, aligning itself with the Liberation Luxury movement, in which brands break free from the traditional tropes of premium retail.

Download the Future Forecast 2022 report

Now that you know what shaped 2021, discover what’s on the horizon. Download our Future Forecast 2022 report comprising 50 new trends across 10 key consumer sectors, insights from our analysts and interviews with global innovators.

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