What to watch for in 2020: retail and merchandising trends

Denise Walsh, Strategic Campus Advisor for Campus Advisory Services discusses what collegiate retailers should look for in retail and merchandising design trends for 2020.

Denise, what retail trends are you expecting to see this year? 

I recently attended the Sports Licensing Tailgate Show in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to hear retail trends from industry experts, see product trends from vendors and connect with people equally passionate about the retail industry.

NPD Group shared insights on retail trends based on the extensive consumer research data they gathered. They project retail growth at two percent, which is good for brick-and-mortar, with online trends being similar. Uber Eats and similar apps are contributing to the strong growth in online food delivery, but even with online growth, brick-and-mortar retail is relevant.

Additionally, athleisure is continuing to be a strong lifestyle trend for both the athlete and the spectator. This trend supports comfort and one’s openness to be ready for an experience, which I’ll talk about later. Growing brands include Champion, Nike, Adidas, Vans, Fila, Puma and HydroFlask.

Top growth categories are fleece, running-inspired and casual athletic footwear, tablets, skincare, sweatpants, water bottles and premium headphones. Bottom growth categories are polos, woven shirts, video game hardware, dresses, jeans, makeup, PCs and bags.

“Soft, cozy” fabrics are still important, like tri-blend and Sherpa – specifically, Sherpa as a liner or as the main garment such as a “furry” fleece. The boxy look is back, and girls are crazy about crops. I also heard of a trend being referenced to as “lamp shading,” which is when a girl wears an over-sized shirt with running shorts. The top is typically so long you really don’t see the shorts. Gen Z’ers really like this.

What should stores keep in mind when developing their merchandising strategy?

Macro trends that continue to influence retail are curation, scarcity, convenience, travel and personal growth. As I work with retailers to develop and support merchandise strategies, there are two philosophies I often convey: you don’t have to be everything to everybody and less is more.

Giving customers a curated assortment and ensuring consistent introduction of fresh products will motivate shoppers to buy. If customers see limited product quantities of their favorites, they are more likely to grab it before it is sold out – scarcity.

Customers also want experiences. This is why travel is trending and why experiential retailing is so important. Find ways to create experiences through special events, but also by creating comfortable spaces to entice customers to stay longer. Trunk shows or pop-up shops can create excitement and attract customers for a limited-time event. If space permits, consider cafes or lounge areas where power is available for students to hangout and charge their devices. With the popularity of gaming, consider create a gaming space if appropriate and available.

How does merchandising fit into those two philosophies?

Merchandising should also follow the less-is-more concept. Ensure there is enough space to navigate around the floor. Use fixtures to create a path for your customers, and let the product tell a story. Merchandise products between two- to six-feet on your walls, and only place products like rugs, chairs and trash cans on the floor.

Merchandise by category and keep displays clean, focusing on one to two items that relate. Don’t clutter a display or fixture with multiple products such as t-shirts, fleece hoodies, hats, backpacks, water bottles and footballs. It is easier for customers to focus on less.

About Denise

Denise Walsh brings more than 30 years of specialty store and collegiate market retail experience to her role with Campus Advisory Services. She’s skilled in high-level strategy and deep tactical and operational insights for business optimizations. Throughout her career, she has held leadership positions at major retail companies where she has gained valuable expertise in what it takes to strategically manage and grow a retail business.

To connect with Denise and Campus Advisory Services, email info@campusadvisoryservices.com.