Power shifts to consumers and employees

Luke Ritchie
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The NRF Big Show wrapped up on Tuesday in New York City with another day of fabulous speakers offering insights into how retail is shifting rapidly and how 2022 might play out. The common thread through all three days has been the shifting power away from retailers to both consumers, and employees.

Nordstrom President and Chief Brand Officer Pete Nordstrom emphasised the importance of retailers listening to consumers and continuing to refresh their range offer. A great case study is the new partnership with online pureplay brand ASOS. “As we talked with them, it was really inspiring and exciting, just how they do business, and their clarity about who their customer is,” he said. ASOS is very clear about its positioning to serve younger consumers, presenting a great opportunity for Nordstrom to reach a younger audience than its traditional customer base.

For ASOS, the opportunity is to access some of the advantages of bricks-and-mortar sites, without having to actually open their own stores. Win-win. Nordstrom stores are becoming click-and-collect locations for ASOS shoppers, as well as allowing these customers a physical location for returns, rather than having to post product back to ASOS.

Nordstrom also spoke of the new range possibilities offered by targeted brand partnerships, where previously ranges were “limited by the four walls of the store.” Increasing one category meant shrinking something else. Now, we can add targeted ranges through both digital and partnerships. Another online collaboration recently announced by Nordstrom is with sports gear retailer Fanatics.

Morgan Stanley Managing Director Carla Harris stole the day with her 30 minute assessment of how the post-pandemic recovery is poised to underpin strong consumer growth and greater diversity. She pointedly noted two fundamental shifts in the economy over the past year: the amplification of choice, and the magnification of voice.

Consumers can now buy what they want, when they want, how they want. Loyalty is just the absence of something better. So, retailers have to be better to retain their customers. Importantly, the more retailers transact with customers online, the more they solicit feedback and transparency from their customers. And consumers – especially younger cohorts – are demanding to know what their favourite brands are doing about sustainability and diversity. To win, brands must be more than good retailers. They must be good citizens.

To this end, IKEA CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer (there’s a clue as to how IKEA feels about sustainability) Javier Quinones revealed that IKEA takes a 360 degree approach to sustainability. “We own wind farms and solar facilities. All buildings are powered by green energy.” On diversity, equality and inclusion, Quinones declared that by 2024, the IKEA management team will reflect the gender and background of broad society.

Lee Peterson from WD Partners shared some very insightful research recently undertaken across thousands of US consumers to divulge their new post-pandemic shopping preferences. The results show the effect of two cataclysmic events: the shift to digital, and the new WFH paradigm. The “wow” stat from Peterson was the percentage of respondents who will NOT return to work in the office 5 days per week – 100%. Not a single person expects to return to how things were before. This cannot be lost on retailers with a proliferation of large shopping centre stores. We should expect major investments from most retailers in more LOCAL store offers.

We look forward to sharing more insights from this conference and our USA trip with our clients and networks in the weeks ahead.

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