6 of the Most Innovative Retailers to Watch in 2019
By Tricia McKinnon and Emily McCullough
Despite many reports of a retail apocalypse, retail sales are actually expected to grow by 3.3% in 2019 according to eMarketer. Within a sea of brands there are a number of retailers, some old and some new, that are innovating and giving customers reasons to keep on spending. These are some of the most innovative retailers for you to watch in 2019.
1. Ulta Beauty is one of the best growth stories in the retail industry. Since 2009 its stock has risen 4,000%. Only one company in the S&P 500 has grown more over that time period, Netflix. Ulta sells both mass and prestige beauty within the same store which differentiates it from most of its competitors. In-store salons are also a driver of foot traffic with salon customers making twice as many trips to an Ulta store than those who do not use the service. In additional Ulta Beauty has a loyalty program, Ultamate Rewards, with 28 million members who drive 90% of the retailer’s sales. It also has many exclusive brand partnerships such as the one it has with Kylie Cosmetics which lure customers into its stores over competitors. Even digitally native teens love the retailer and rank it as their favourite beauty retailer over Sephora. Keep an eye out for an Ulta Beauty store near you given the company’s plan to open 80 stores in 2019.
2. Between 2017 and 2018, sales from leading resale clothing stores like thredUP were up by 49%. With the estimated size of the resale clothing market at $20 billion, these stores are disrupting the way consumers shop for clothing. Expect this trend to continue with the number of second-hand buyers estimated to increase by 40% by 2022. thredUP is an online platform for individuals to sell their second-hand clothing. Approximately 15,000 new items are added to the site daily. Items are discounted up to 90% off the estimated retail price. The platform is user-friendly and functions similar to any other online clothing retailer.
3. One of the growth areas in eCommerce sales within the luxury sector comes not only from individual brands’ eCommerce sites but from online marketplaces like Farfetch. Farfetch launched its eCommerce marketplace in 2008 and only sells luxury brands. Farfetch was created with the goal of: “redefining how fashion is bought and sold ”through technology, data and innovation. A decade after launch, at any time there are approximately 280,000 items for sale on the Farfetch’s site and the company’s customers are from over 190 countries. Marketplaces are convenient, offering customers the ability to shop from hundreds of retailers in a more efficient manner. They are really, from a customer perspective, the online department stores of the retail industry.
4. California based shoe company Allbirds started out with a wool sneaker in 2016. They became a Silicon Valley staple then Allbirds went on to sell one million pairs within two years. Its shoes are made of natural and environmentally friendly materials including eucalyptus tree fibre and merino wool. Its shoes are also comfortable with Time magazine calling them: "the world's most comfortable shoe." Last year Allbirds launched a flip flop called SweetFoam with soles that are made from sugar cane. Tim Brown, Allbird’s Co-Founder has said: “our thought is, if we can put a man on the moon, you should be able to make a T-shirt and a pair of sneakers that are carbon negative or carbon neutral”.
5. Everlane is a clothing brand head quartered in California that mostly sells high quality basics (cashmere sweaters, cotton t-shirts and jeans) but at lower prices than retailers such as J.Crew or Banana Republic who sell similar items. Everlane plans to eliminate all virgin plastic from its supply chain by 2021. On Everlane’s website it says: “there are 8 billion tons of plastic on the planet. And once it’s made—it never goes away. So today, we’re making a commitment: No new plastic in our entire supply chain by 2021.” The first step towards achieving that goal is Everlane’s launch of a new line called ReNew, a collection of puffer jackets and fleece that is made from three million recycled plastic bottles. For items within the collection Everlane shows how many plastic bottles were “renwed” in order to make a particular jacket or top. For example Everlane’s ReNew Long Puffer was made from 60 renewed plastic bottles. Everlane’s goal is to recycle 100 million plastic bottles within five years.
6. Last year Nike opened its 68,000 sq. ft “House of Innovation 000” store in New York. Using Nike’s “Scan to Try” functionality on Nike’s mobile app customers can scan the barcode on any product in the store using the app to learn more about a product and see what colours and sizes are available. With the app customers can also see if a product is in stock, or if it is available at nearby stores or online all without speaking to anyone. Using the app customers can also request that a sales associate bring items to designated locations in the store or have items placed in a fitting room.
Within the House of Innovation store using Nike’s “Instant Checkout” functionality customers can pay for their purchase by scanning the bar code on a product using Nike’s mobile app. After paying for the purchase within the app members can skip the checkout line and walk out of the store with their items. Instant Checkout stations are placed throughout the store so that customers can bag their own items if they choose to do so after paying for their purchase. To use these features customers must be members of NikePlus, Nike’s loyalty program.