North America’s retail trends: how we’re tracking so far

Date : 04 February 2021

Stewart Samuel

Program Director - Canada

Early year initiatives suggest we’re on-track with our North American retail trends outlook for 2021. It might be a little early to mark our success, but we’re already seeing new proof-points in support of our views.

Outlined in our report, North America retail outlook 2021, we highlight new initiatives which have emerged since the start of the year to reinforce the trends we identified.

Source: IGD Research

1. Creating new retail experiences

With the COVID-19 pandemic being a catalyst for a major re-thinking of store formats and layouts, including a focus on contactless experiences, several new checkout-free concepts have emerged this year. These include the recently launched Couche-Tard lab store in Montreal and the opening of the first CIBO Express Gourmet Market convenience stores featuring Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology at Newark airport.

Source: McGill University

2. Resetting product and service offers

Linked to changes to the store experience are enhancements to the food offer. Most of the changes in this area are related to new consumer behaviours which have emerged since the start of the pandemic. This includes a greater focus on locally sourced ranges, with Meijer planning to host its first virtual Localization Summit in April. This will give local businesses the opportunity to showcase their items to the retailer’s buyers. In response to the growing demand for more meal solutions, The GIANT Company has launched a new “All Set in a Box,” ready-to-eat hot dinner package that contains a main course and sides for four people.

Source: The GIANT Company

3. Improving ecommerce profitability

The surge in grocery ecommerce growth has been one of the defining characteristics of the pandemic. With channel margins lower than what is achieved in-store, this has fixed retailers’ focus on improving channel profitability. Last month, Walmart, announced plans to scale up its automated micro-fulfillment roll-out by working with a range of different partners to roll-out solutions to dozens of locations. It has also relaunched its digital marketing business under a new brand, Walmart Connect. This will be an important source of revenue and profits for the business as it gains scale.

Source: Walmart

4. Emphasising value credentials

Although the full economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown, the expectation is that more consumers will be financially constrained in 2021. This is expected to drive a stronger focus on value through low prices and private label ranges. To date, activity in this area has been much lower than for the other trends. There have been a small number of private label launches, including new limited-range ice cream flavours from Publix, but we expect to see a heightened focus on supporting consumers’ value needs in the second half of the year.

Source: Publix

5. Embracing a new era for health and wellness

One of the expected lasting legacies of the pandemic is that consumers will have a greater interest and focus on their health and wellbeing. This year, we have seen several new initiatives in this area, including a new health and wellness tagging programme, My Health My Choices, from Metro in Canada, the launch of Hy-Vee’s new health services platform, Healthie, and Heinen’s new health membership programme, Club Fx.

Source: Hy-Vee

Retail Analysis subscribers can get the detail behind all of these trends in our new report, North America retail outlook 2021.

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