NRF 2023 Wash-Up: What were our highlights?
NRF trend reports are everywhere this week, so we thought we’d do something different. Highlight the 5 things we actually enjoyed most about NRF.
2020 will probably go down in most of our lives as a bit of a downer, so we thought it was appropriate to end it off with some soulful good cheer by celebrating some of the amazing things we’ve seen in 2020.
So here’s a list of the 10 awards Quorso thinks are really worth shouting about, celebrating where retailers, or those within the retail community, have done some incredible things this year.
Time Magazine may have gone for Jo Biden and Kamala Harris, but it was essential workers who kept the economy running this year.
With the realities of the pandemic, it has became abundantly clear that businesses and the rest of society are indebted to the grocery workers, delivery drivers, and all other essential retail workers. The people risked their health to keep the world working for all of us.
Retail has gone from being about shopping and spending money, to an essential service that keeps people fed, healthy, and safe. We hope that this pivot will see companies identifying and rewarding those who have had to do more than ever before, in more dangerous conditions than ever before, dealing with the true challenges on the frontline and being the real superheroes. With such a co-dependency between HQ and frontline established by the pandemic, the 2020s could well be a new era for connection and engagement in retail.
It may seem odd to pick the biggest one out there for this accolade, but what Walmart has done this year is truly incredible.
They have led the way on supporting associates, providing special cash bonuses throughout the year, and recognizing that people really needed time for friends and family by closing their stores over Thanksgiving.
They have made the type of strategic investments that showed true agility. From Walmart+, the first real competitor to Amazon Prime, to partnerships with Shopify and Facebook to broaden their market, from nimbleness in a number of JVs, to acquisitions like Joyrun and increased stakes in Flipkart.
They have also shown leadership on climate action, publicly targeting zero emissions by 2040.
Every announcement that Doug McMillon made this year made us sit up and think – good call.
Admittedly we couldn’t go to the shops much this year. Yet, there was something tremendously refreshing about what Matt Margereson and team have done with the Hotel Chocolat stores.
Whilst many are talking about the increasingly whacky techniques needed to entice people into experiential, Hotel Chocolat for us was the prime example of doing the basics incredibly well.
There’s a lot in this operational execution most retailers should look to as an example of best in class right now. Customers are responding accordingly, with a 50% YOY growth in loyalty club membership.
We’ve been pretty disappointed with a lot of the media around retail this year. More willing to talk about the negatives – closures, bankruptcies, and job losses – than the amazing things many retailers have done.
It’s why we’ve been such a fan of the OmniTalk crowd. They’ve brought energy, fresh insights, and good humor all year long, providing the perfect antidote to the mainstream media.
Or for the uninitiated, Buy Online, Pick Up In Store. Maybe more an acronym than a word. There’s something about this term that reflects the changing nature of the store right now. At the start of 2020, there was a lot of discussion around the store as a media device by the likes of Retail Prophet, Doug Stephens. Yet 2020 has shown us that perhaps the role of the store is going to be more multifaceted than ever before. Not just a place to shop and buy, but also the hub for coordinating the increasingly varied ways people want to be fulfilled.
At Quorso, we’ve always been determined to explore our product’s capacity to coordinate and drive action on climate change. Our product manager Daniel has been driving initiatives to use our technology at macro and micro levels, to monitor and share best practices on how countries and companies are responding to the greatest challenge of our time.
Seeing the drive from the British Retail Consortium, which had the majority of the UK’s large retailers commit to zero carbon by 2040, was one of the highlights of the year. An industry taking collective action for our future.
After many had claimed the erosion of community, 2020 saw retailers delivering goods to the isolated or quarantined for free, pizza chains giving free pizzas to essential health workers, and big retailers giving extra holiday days or staff bonuses. Even though many independent retailers found themselves struggling, many offered heavy discounts to frontline staff or coordinated care packages for the local and vulnerable.
These small yet touching gestures have reminded many of what true community spirit feels like. It showed us that, against a common threat, humans have a fundamental drive to unite and people can actually be pretty awesome. After years of doomsayers decrying “every person for themselves,” these wonderful stories brought us a collective optimism for the future.
It was a tough one to choose between this and agile. We think agile will be the theme of the decade for retail – but there’s been a recalibration of human needs that goes across everything. In 2020, our health, our connections, and our relationships have all been put under the spotlight. We’ve been trapped indoors, restricted from socializing, and felt deep uncertainty about the future. We’ve sorely missed, and been heavily reminded of, the true importance of being human.
We have been astonished by some of the creativity from small businesses since the pandemic started. Clothes retailers pivoting to provide essential supplies, restaurants, and wholesale pivoting to grocery delivery, and specialty stores arranging Zoom parties to offer some connection – all while navigating financial stresses and personal uncertainty.
Such relentless innovation, instead of just accepting defeat or relying solely on grants, has shown us the best of human ingenuity to keep creative and commercial, even in the toughest of times.
We’ll end with a humorous reflection on the year. NRF 2020 seems like ancient history – it was after all B.C. (Before Covid). One of the core themes at retail’s launchpad of the year was Experiential Retail – within the store. Who would have thought that a mere few weeks later, the situation would have been almost completely the opposite?
Let’s see how NRF reflects on that in January 2021. We here at Quorso have our own thoughts and are lining up some exciting things around NRF 2021 to help guide the way on what we think will be one of retail’s most transformational decades ever.
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