It is challenging to predict what the future of retail looks like. Even for the back half of 2020 there are so many factors at play that could up-end any prediction. 2021 is even more challenging to consider. But, hey, let’s have a crack at that, let’s consider the information we have learned from talking with hundreds of retailers across multiple niche retail channels over recent weeks and well as from talking with many suppliers to these retailers.

Absent a vaccine for COVID-19, retail challenges remain ahead of us. Border closures, immigration stalled, trade shows paused and the supply chain itself slow … these are all factors to consider along with what has actually happened over the last three months.

Here are our thoughts on themes we think will matter in 2021.

  • Competition will increase. With all retailers in the same boat, big retailers will chase our customers with more energy and resources.
  • Retail to restructure. The restructuring we have seen already in retail will continue in 2021. That means more retail business closures, more businesses wholly moving online, creating a flood of discounted product. This will be challenging.
  • Shopper contact points. Social media, flyers and other touch points will matter in 2021 in terms of your connection with current and potential shoppers. Social media engagement has risen through Covid.
  • Australian made. We see sourcing and promoting Australian made as a differentiating strategy for 2021. 2021 will not be about cheap China product. How we pitch Australian made will matter. It needs to be nuanced.
  • Locals supporting locals. As local community groups fire up, they will ask for help. Manage this by being clear about what it means to you and the community.
  • Covid has reinforced the importance of connection through disconnection. We anticipate lingering interest in products that help connect in this way.
  • Practical help. For many, 2021 will be about finding work. Helping people who are looking for work is a wonderful public service for your local community.
  • The lockdown helped people realise what they did not know that they would like to know. You could benefit from offering a hub for such learning.
  • Online is here to stay. The biggest challenge is what to sell online. It is too easy to say everything I have in the shop. The more rewarding but harder path is to see online as a start-up business to drive net new traffic for your business. The offer from Tower of half price Shopify sites for newsXpress members remains available.

These notes are part of a broader report we have shared as p[art of a workshop consulting program with which we have been engaged. They are the highlights of our submission on our thoughts regarding 2021.

We hope our thoughts are useful to small business retailers.

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