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On October 28th, RETHINK Retail hosted their October Small Groups Mixer, a monthly virtual event catered to all of 2022’s Top Retail Influencers (TRI). This month attendees discussed a range of topics including Retail Analytics, Black Friday, Visual Merchandising, AI & the Customer Experience, and recent Retail Acquisitions. 

Here, we’ll explore these topics and additional insights from the Mixer with the help of a few of our outstanding influencers!

Andrew Smith: Retail Analytics

Although Retailers are more and more wanting the benefits of great data usage, there is still a tremendous skills gap and a lack of appetite for risk.  However, as retail media is increasingly taking share from traditional media, the amount of useful data to create great experiences for customers, as well as unlock growth for retail brands, is only going to accelerate.   We also discussed the need for data to be used more effectively to remove bias from decisions.  The anecdote we shared was in buying for apparel.  Each year everyone thinks they’ll sell everything all at once, yet come January we see clearance sales everywhere.  There is plenty of data that, if used correctly, would override decision bias and create a more productive set of product decisions.  Opportunity is everywhere if we use it smartly!

DeAnn Campbell: Black Friday

More retailers are keeping stores closed on Thanksgiving, enabled in large part by e-commerce. At the same time, social media has created new venues for retailers to reach shoppers, giving rise to a “season” of multiple holiday sales rather than a stand-alone Black Friday event.  

A growing focus on personalization has many retailers creating multiple promotions tailored to different shopper journeys. For example, this year Walmart is kicking off their sale season with an online pre-sale event for Walmart+ members only. Non-members can access the online sale two days later, then the sale moves into stores two weeks later.

While consumers may complain that the holiday sale season is starting early, October has been when holiday items appear in stores for over two decades. What’s changed this year is that consumers are feeling their holiday stress sooner due to a perfect storm of economic and political upheaval, and Covid related supply chain issues. Shoppers worried about inflation, employment and recession don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving, but are looking for discounts now to beat anticipated price hikes.

Liza Amlani: Store Design/Visual Merchandising

Leading the small groups mixer on the store planning/visual merchandising conversation solidified the fact that storytelling is more important than ever. From inclusive store designs and mannequins to visual merchandising that goes back to outfitting and styling, the way retailers/brands plan stores must tie back to the consumer. DTC brands and startups need to ask more questions when it comes to breaking into physical retail like what brands will they be their adjacencies and how will product knowledge be relayed to brand ambassadors and shoppers. The consumer experience in stores is so important and will help retailers stay relevant. For example, a Macy’s in Herald Square should give the same feeling to the shopper as it would in a C or D mall. The consumer will notice the disconnect and this is where so many retailers go wrong.

Bryan Gildenberg– Retail Acquisitions 

In the retail acquisitions conversation Kroger/Albertson’s was the order of the day as we explored a few key themes:

  1. There’s a narrative that grocery acquisitions “don’t work” which isn’t entirely true, and certainly not true when executed by Kroger, which knows how to do them.
  2. The acquisition gives them more scale, obviously, but also lets Albertson’s tap into Kroger’s skills in loyalty card marketing and expands the footprint for Kroger as a retail media platform into a few key major metro markets.

We also discussed how acquisitions are unfolding in the apparel space (looking at players like Capri and Tapestry, as well as Finish Line who seem to be doing a good job with this) and also discussed consolidation on the manufacturing side as well as small brands figure out how to navigate this new complicated world.  Good discussion!

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