Editor’s note: some good news for a change

by Karen Alberg Grossman
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I ‘Zoomed’ into a presentation yesterday sponsored by the Retail Marketing Society (RMS) and was glad that I did. For unlike much of the bad news that hits me on a daily basis, the group of experts that RMS gathered for this business trend presentation was overwhelmingly optimistic.

Patrick McKeever, president and founder of The Daily on Retail, kicked off the conversation with a positive business analysis. He noted that according to data, retail (other than mall-based apparel stores) has actually held up better than expected. Holiday business was much better than projected, with sales increases averaging 8 percent, more than double the average increase of the past five years. How to explain it? McKeever believes that since shoppers were not spending on restaurants, travel, or other experiences, they shifted these dollars into buying, for themselves, and for gifts.

His outlook going forward: unless travel eats up disposable dollars, we can expect another 8 percent gain. The availability of vaccines and relaxed restrictions mean that consumers will want to celebrate their freedom and dress the part. Pent-up demand is inevitable as consumers tire of sweats and activewear and long to create a fresh, personalized look.

On the matter of store closings, McKeever points out that although last year’s number—10,700—sounds high, closings had been projected at 20,000 so we beat that forecast (with some help from landlords working closely with retailers and even rescuing a few, e.g. Simon Property acquiring JCPenney.) He also reminded us of 1,200 new store openings, noting that investors are still interested in retail space.

From a fashion perspective, the impressive panel of experts (Sharon Graubard, Beth Sobol, and Autumn Zimmerman, moderated by Nancy Marino) addressed numerous reasons why we could be in for a “Roaring ’20s” decade, 100 years after the last one.

Among the points discussed:

*digital socializing changes driven by Gen Z;

*the timing re-set: brands offering smaller, more frequent collections; retailers buying closer to seasons and holding off on markdowns;

*a move from Instagram and TikTok to less saturated apps;

*a shift to hybrid formal and business attire;

*a new craving for tailoring in both men’s and women’s clothing;

*clothing as a mood-elevator;

*delivery problems for big brands with multi-national sourcing becomes a plus for small brands;

*why retailers need to target young customers: youth controls social media; social media controls the narrative.

*a definite trend to personalization: it’s not the items; it’s how they’re put together.

*a menswear trend to more stylish casual pieces, e.g. statement outerwear;

*men’s suits as a fashion item;

*gender fluidity: women interested in men’s collections;

*growth in the re-sale market;

And so much more!

For info on RMS, a non-profit group of professionals with a common passion for retailing, contact Ann Marie Soto at ams_assoc@prodigy.net.

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