5 Retail Trends That Shaped 2016

E-comm goes bricks-and-clicks, off-price retail soars, and more

In these final days of 2016, let’s take a look back at some of the major trends that have shaped retail this year:

E-Comm Came to Brick-and-Mortar

Online shopping continues to gain ground, but more and more purely e-commerce retailers are finding success with an omnichannel approach that includes brick-and-mortar. This year, pure-play e-commerce retailers including Birchbox, Bonobos, Stone & Strand, and Rent the Runway opened physical locations. And Amazon, which has toyed with several pop-ups and ephemeral retail outposts in the past few years, opened a brick-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle—one without lines or checkout counters, naturally. 

Birchbox debuted its first brick-and-mortar this year, in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood (photo courtesy of Birchbox)

Everlane, an upscale fashion e-comm whose founder once said, “We are going to shut down the company before we open physical locations,” is now publicly mulling over brick-and-mortar opportunities. After all, nearly 80 percent of Americans shop online, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. But a whopping 64 percent of those polled said they still like buying in-store better. 

Tom Ford’s Fall 2016 collection actually showed during the fall—a whole new deal (photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)

See Now, Buy Now Landed

Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, and Burberry were among the designer brands who flipped the script on the age-old practice of showing a seasonal collection on the runway many months before it’s available in stores. Instead they (and others) presented their Fall 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week in September, when designers traditionally show their spring collections for the following year. And a majority of the pieces from those collections were available for purchase on the day of the runway shows—typically online and in stores.

By all available accounts, the gambit worked. Burberry and Tom Ford reported sell-throughs on a number of items, as did Alexander Wang, who made a handful of items in his runway presentation available immediately in a pop-up store and online. 

Next year, the trend in designer retail may very well include a mass(ish) exodus to Los Angeles from New York City. Tom Ford, Rachel Zoe, Tommy Hilfiger, and Rachel Comey have all announced they’re presenting in LA—not New York—in 2017.  



Off-Price Retail Soared

Even in the face of e-comm gains, off-price physical retail continued its march to glory. According to the NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking, which tracks consumer behavior, two-thirds of consumers shop at off-price stores.

TJX, which owns T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls in the United States, reported a rise in net sales for the third quarter of 2016 at 6.9 percent, to $8.29 billion. Everyone, it seems, loves a deal. 



Department Stores Faltered

Macy’s announced that it would be closing 100 stores in 2017. Sears (which also owns Kmart), went into financial free fall—and also announced store closings in 2016 and 2017. And department stores including Kohl’s and Nordstrom reported double-digit losses in 2016. 

This year’s rough-and-rocky retail landscape put an end to the speculation: Department stores, at least as we have known them for the better part of a century, are in serious decline. As Amazon, Zappos (also owned by Amazon), Target, and off-price retailers lure consumers with good deals and easy, fast e-comm, shoppers are turning away from department stores, which can’t compete with e-giants on selection or depth of inventory. 

2017 will be a pivotal year for department stores; they will either begin the process of reinvention, or find themselves on the road to extinction. 

A sobering summary of the e-commerce market on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined (image courtesy of CNBC)

Amazon Dominated

And to nobody’s surprise, Amazon dominated retail in 2017. According to Adobe Digital, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for the online behemoth topped $3 billion and broke single-day e-commerce records.

Slice Intelligence, a market research firm, looked at 1.7 million online shopping receipts generated between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16 and found that an overwhelming majority of those purchases were made at Amazon—giving the retailer a cool 36.9 percent share of the entire online holiday market.

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JCK Senior Editor

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