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Retail Innovation|February 13, 2019

The WSL List: 15 Retailers That Stand Out – For Better and Worst

It’s that time of year when we look back over the past 12 months and assess the retail winners, losers and those in between. This year’s WSL List includes not only big brand names, but it also identifies five themes that inform what we call Shopping Life®. Here’s a sneak peek.

Welcome to 2019, when getting back to your retailer roots may be considered bold risk-taking.

With so many fantastic technologies to explore, it’s easy to understand why. Those shiny options can outshine the essentials of a good shopper trip. In our annual review of the retail winners, losers and those tight-roping between, we’ve discovered five themes that pull us into the future yet (importantly) remain grounded in traditional needs.

To compile our list, we extracted the meaning, direction and implications from what shoppers told us in our How America Shops® research. Here’s a teaser.
 

  1. Artificial becomes reality: From Amazon Go’s ability to track the items shoppers consider (or reject) to driverless robot cars, artificial intelligence is finally making omni-channel achievable and efficient. The question still to be answered is it affordable...yet.
     
  2. Affordable differences: Knowing low prices aren’t enough, Aldi and Dollar General are injecting relevant value into their selections, from healthier foods to stores curated specifically for young shoppers.
     
  3. Unequaled experiences: With their customized New York flagships, Adidas and Nike prove that shoppers can (and want to) experience familiar products differently. This is increasingly true even in rural communities where pop-up store Bank nailed this by offering luxury facials within the ornate confines of a bank vault.
     
  4. Coloring outside the lines, but staying on the page: Department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and others are observing shopper needs with service-only locales, gender-specific stores, and limited-time selections. Unassuming grocery chain Hy-Vee, meanwhile, is surprising shoppers with unpredictable brand relationships.
     
  5. Returning to what works: Maybe it was one too many overripe bananas, but Target is finally refocusing on soft goods and adding style-focused exclusive brands. Walmart continues to concentrate on making shopping easier, and feasible, with delivery cars that carry a fun surprise (you have to read us to see it).

What to Watch Out For

Where there are winners, there are also-rans. Among those that have made (or may make) crucial missteps:

  • Amazon: Yes, Amazon is big enough to exist on both sides of the board. While leading in convenience and selection, it has been called out on its not-so-competitive prices (it’s never been the leader, but some are just realizing this). Is “free” delivery too good to be true?
     
  • Sephora: Revered for tearing down the counter barriers of upscale beauty, Sephora responded to its popularity by adding more brands and wellness products. Now it just feels, well, overwhelming – even for its evidently undertrained staff.
     
  • Cannabis: Aided by a wellness movement that is permeating drug chains, beauty stores and others, CBD-based goods are budding up in fashion, health, food and more. Unclear is whether it will hold interest and gain market share throughout the year, or burn out. Will drug stores who are losing traffic in front-store aisles open cannabis cafés? Stay tuned.

Future Shop®: Cleaning Up

One trend seems certain for 2019: Too much of any one strategy is not healthy. Low prices should be balanced with relevant-value offerings. Artificial intelligence should be complemented with a knowledgeable human touch. Selection should be balanced by curation.

Expect a continuation of these themes in 2019.

Want to know more about our, winners, losers and those straddling the fence? Get your FREE EDGE Trendletter here

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