Twenty-nineteen started off with a bang in the retail world as brands dug out from the holiday craze to refocus on the year’s new goals and initiatives. The NRF Big Show dominated the headlines as did reports of a successful holiday season, with Mastercard SpendingPulse reporting U.S. retail sales up 5.1 percent, the strongest performance in six years. Here’s a look at some of the stories that caught our eye in January.
1. Amazon: Earnings and Technology
You can’t talk about the retail industry health without specifically highlighting Amazon. The behomenth brand released its quarterly earnings the last week of January and reported better than expected sales over the holiday season, rising 20 percent with net sales in North America jumping to $44.12 billion during the quarter. Despite the gains for the quarter, Amazon forecast Q1 sales below Wall Street estimates, due to slowed growth in select markets in Europe and other industry challenges.
In Amazon innovation news, the Current Daily reports on a patent filed by the brand in the UK for a virtual changing room app that uses customer data to make product recommendations. The app will create an avatar to visualize clothing recommendations that are made based on customer preferences, weather, location and more.
Business Insider writes about a recent NPD Report that U.S. luxury fashion sales in have increased by 50 percent in recent years, with substantial growth in expensive apparel and footwear being driven by fashionable millennial shoppers. Coupled with a March 2018 report from Deloitte that examines the class of shoppers, these findings support that the retail sector has split into two distance areas - luxury and budget with the middle class disappearing.
This opinion article in Bloomberg hammered home the point that innovation needs to solve a problem or make an improvement to be worthwhile. The author speaks to many of the technologies on display at The Big Show incorporating the new and shiny buzzwords of AI or robots. She argues that often times, these innovations fall flat on delivering an enhanced experience for the shopper or brand. Retailers need to strategically focus on technology that will make their stores and websites more engaging or easier to navigate, rather than just building tech for the sake of saying you have it.