2020 was a tough year for retailers—at least those with a traditional brick-and mortar footprint. Capacity limitations and a continued push by Amazon left many traditional spaces fighting for their lives. But 2021 is here. Shots are going into arms, lockdowns are being lifted, and the busy seasons are coming up. But to succeed, retail executives will need to have customer information, supply chains, and planning initiatives perfected.
How can you make this happen? Embrace technology and set yourself up for the new needs of potential customers.
Summer Shopping: Tailoring Your Communications
Between Tax Return season and Back-to-School is the perfect time for retailers to insert themselves into the conversation. Vacations in 2021 might look a bit more normal—but travelers may still want to keep their distance this year. This will require a retailer to plan for a variety of customer needs.
Tailoring your product offering to each of the spring and summer shopping schedules—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Graduation, and more—will require you to act fast. To succeed in a multiple-outcome summer season, you’re going to need to plan for the kind of person who’s going to be buying.
Father’s Day could be a return to grilling—filled with new buyers looking to see their neighbors and families for the first time in a while. Outdoor equipment could make a return, driven by vacationers looking to replace their traditional destinations with a National Park. In turn, the right approach to the right buyer can go a long way in positioning you for success.
Back to School: The Right Focus
Retailers have significant opportunity in Back-to-School season. The second-largest sales event for retailers each year before the pandemic, 2021 will look different. While 2020 saw parents spending heavily—$789.49 in last year’s shopping season per household and $1059.20 in back-to-college spending—the return to normal will see less focus on technology and more on the basics.
Preschool to College: Catching Up on Two Years of In-Person Learning Needs
Parents are anxiously awaiting the end of Zoom classes and despite the best efforts of teachers’ unions, have begun to fight for schools to reopen. Students are looking forward to seeing their friends. Both are looking to undo the damage, stress, and emotional turmoil that virtual learning environments have put on today’s youth.
This presents an opportunity for retailers. After the past year of lockdowns, back to school budgets could be larger than ever. Backpacks will become relevant, pens, papers, and traditional supplies will once again be required. Students have likely spent an entire year without needing to show up to classes dressed to impress.
And the older the student, the bigger the spend. Last year, it was estimated that 43 percent of parents did not believe their children will attend in-person college classes in the fall and 48 percent were unlikely to send students to in-person learning. Now, rather than a single year of students preparing for the dorm life, colleges may be welcoming two new classes into the dorms—both freshmen and sophomores will need all the essentials.
Planning for Back-to-School Season: Focus on the Basics
Electronics were a big thing in 2020. After seeing roughly $13 billion in total spending on electronics in 2018 and 2019, this number jumped 27 percent in 2020 to $16.7 billion. Per-household demand for apparel dropped in 2020, but with a return to normal on the horizon, one can expect a return to traditional spending.
Retailers, in turn, will need to prepare for this. Two years’ worth of parents looking to understand dorm essentials, parents of younger children seeking out products for growing kids, planning the transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school. These are the kinds of people who will need to understand what they need, and it’s on you to help.
This could be a boon for retailers—if they can handle it properly. Knowing how to tailor your shopping experiences for the local audience and have a constant supply of stock can deliver results for parents looking for products.
But this will require messaging, supply chain, and the ability to cater to these parents—anything to cut into the 43% of customers who shopped online in 2020. This starts with a clear understanding of what your customers need. Will they want to buy online and pickup in store? How can you ensure that a required item graces your shelves?
Holidays 2021: The Big One
The season every retail owner awaits. Holiday season 2021 will likely take on a more traditional look, and retailers will need to plan for a return to packed stores, continued growth, and constant business.
One of the biggest surprises in the past year? The pandemic and lockdowns didn’t slow in 2020—in fact, 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion. But unexpectedly, much of this was done online last year—online and non-store sales were up 23.9 percent during this period.
For those who saw problems in 2020—Clothing stores (down 14.9 percent), Electronics and appliance stores (down 14.4 percent) and general merchandise stores (down 0.1 percent)—this is the year to get back.
If you’re hoping to make the holidays more successful or take this as an opportunity to recover, you’re going to need to act now. Accurate planning and budgeting will be critical if you intend to bring people in on your terms. Here are just a few tips to succeed:
Pivot from Back-to-School to Holiday
Once back-to-school ends, you’re going to need to start looking at the holidays. People may always complain about seeing Christmas decorations before Halloween, but if it keeps you in business after a down year, make it happen.
Extend Your Sales Season
Too often, companies will put all their hopes on the black Friday to Christmas window. But with likely limitations on capacity, you may serve to benefit from getting shoppers through your doors in early or mid-November. Plan your sales and get products in when you can, because a six-week window will give you more leverage than a three-week one.
Develop Your Supply Chain Early
The big challenge behind any successful holiday is your ability to have the must-have items. Supply chains are still strained, so you’re going to want to have a clear picture of what people will want now in order to mitigate risk.
Be Where Your Customers Want to Be
Today’s retailers have more roads to improvement than ever, and customers may or may not believe that the big city is their ideal shopping location. For suburban retailers, it may pay to cater to the needs of omnichannel customers using delivery or dark stores, two of the main trends for 2021.
Enabling the Retailer: Cloud 9 ERP Solutions and Acumatica
Setting up and running a successful retail operation will require new tactics to succeed. But without the right technological backbone, this may be impossible.
At Cloud 9 ERP Solutions, we specialize in customizing and delivering Acumatica ERP for our retail and eCommerce customers, and as a Gold Certified Acumatica Partner, we are among the best and brightest of these partners. As you begin planning for this year’s busy seasons, now is the right time to look at your next steps.
Acumatica delivers a uniquely focused experience for retailers, offering some of the most powerful and highest-rated financial management, order management, and inventory management functionality in the business that allows you to continue to satisfy customers while embracing new technologies focused on the future. We invite you to learn more about our customers by reading case studies and testimonials, and contact us for more information.