The National Retail Federation‘s annual Big Show is the pulse of where retail is today and where it is going tomorrow. Here are key takeaways from the 2019 event and insights regarding what it all means for retailers and brands in the coming year and beyond:

Retail was never dead. Now it’s reawakened.
Retail has a new definition that encompasses physical and digital worlds and we’re undergoing a retail transformation. The industry has moved past the point of apocalyptic panic that was heightened by the press and is sitting in a position of strength. While 2018 closed with retail sales having grown 4.6%, the NRF predicts sales in 2019 to grow up to 4.4%, with a slowdown expected due to unknowns surrounding tariffs. The Fed’s next moves and the government shutdown.

What we think

Retailers and malls will seek new uses for spaces that include showrooms, pop-ups, fulfillment and returns centers. In the case of malls, new tenants will appear as grocery stores, food halls and community gathering areas. Although sales are shifting online, consumers still crave the tangible experience of in-person shopping and many are seeking opportunities to see products in person before buying. The influx of digitally native retailers that are expanding into brick and mortar speaks volumes as to the value of physicality and getting closer to the consumer to foster interaction.

Stores of the future will go beyond transaction.
As Lee Peterson from WD Partners said, “people don’t have to go to stores anymore, people have to WANT to go to stores.” Retailers need to envision and repurpose what the role of the store is in a digital age. Shopping should be fun and engaging but also fulfilling. Ultimately, consumers on a shopping mission want to be able to walk out with what they went in to buy. In the meantime, physical retail will evolve beyond just physical spaces to places where we can eat, work, play or learn. Agility and responsiveness to change will be paramount for retailers to embrace.