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Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?

Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?

The fall out from the COVID 19 shut down has had a devastating impact on industries like travel and hospitality, to name just a few. Imagine waking up one day and realizing your business or career is either extinct or looks completely different with zero warning, through absolutely no fault of your own. 

It’s heartbreaking.

Experts say, though, that these industries are resilient, that demand is there, and if they can get through this, there is a path back to their previous success.

AirB&B, for example, came out earlier this week and said that it had more US bookings between May 17 and June 3, which encompassed Memorial Day on May 25, than the same time period a year earlier

Everyone I know is trying to do something this summer and is happily spending money and rallying behind as many small businesses as possible, because it’s important to all of us and our communities that they survive.  

But the impact on retail, specifically fashion retail, and its supporting industries is going to be a much different story.

What is the Future of Retail?

an empty corridor in an indoor shopping mall

The retail industry faces its own list of difficult, and complicated challenges, and while COVID has made an enormous impact, one could argue it only speed up the inevitable.

For years the industry has been in flux, and now it’s an absolute mess.

Malls have seen a dramatic drop in foot traffic long before mandated shutdowns.

Retailers trying to create more of an “experience” within their stores had varying levels of success, often making it more difficult for the customer to shop.

Quality has dropped, prices have risen. 

Many manufacturing and sourcing practices are still archaic, lack oversight, and create severe environmental impact.

Retail is a complex web that needs a total restructuring to meet the needs of modern society. 

Lack of Goodwill

But perhaps the biggest issue is the lack of goodwill between consumers and brands.

For YEARS retail at large has ignored cries for expanded – or inclusive sizing.

It’s 2020, and the overwhelming majority of inventory still only goes up to a size 12.

It’s just too hard to shop. It’s too expensive, limiting and frustrating. 

And for whatever reason, it feels like retail only markets to 25 years in Southern California (no offense) or the extremely affluent who don’t blink at a pair of $600 jeans. 

They assume everyone is a size 2, white, and lives a life of leisure. 

My job has always been to shop for women. Whether it was when I was a buyer, a personal shopper, or now as a content creator. The basis of my job is finding practical solutions that are chic and stylish for the average American woman (and our friends around the globe).

Shopping is as Impossible as You Think

If you’re petite or plus size they have limited you to online only. That’s right, most American department stores and some speciality stores took special sizing off their selling floors. Meaning you cannot walk into a store and buy anything.

If you’re a woman of color, you are often not even included in the conversation. I can walk into any store and buy a neutral-to-me bra. If you have darker skin and want a neutral-to-you bra, or pair of pantyhose, or a shoe that matches your skin tone – you’ll likely have to place a special order, if it’s even available. 

Just a few months ago, I went to the mall looking for something special to wear to my 40th birthday party. I decided I was going to treat myself and buy whatever I wanted. 

Something as simple as a party top for a grown woman was a total bust. 

I can home with a pathetic sweater. 

It’s like the stores are telling us, point blank, who they want to walk through their doors.

Retail has never cared about consumers. And these public promises of transparency and diversity amid two national crises feel like a marketing ploy rather than real, needed change.

And if a brand is actually serious about it, it is going to take years to see real change.

The Long Term

So here is what I think will happen. 

The brands that make ethics, inclusion, and community building a priority will succeed but it won’t be easy. They have to cut through the noise, align with trusted voices and figure out how to compete with Amazon. 

Malls will never go back to what they were. As a destination, I think as long as people have to wear a mask, trips to the mall will be transactional instead of a leisurely day off. 

And that’s an issue for their bottom line because the longer you’re there, the more you spend, and if there is no impulse spending, stores and malls will ultimately close.

We’ll see so many more bankruptcies like J.Crew and total closures like Sears and J.C. Penny.

Some brands will hopefully expand their offerings, maybe Nordstroms will get it’s act together and start offering merchandise again that meet the needs of the average woman.

Sadly, small boutiques are going to continue to struggle. It’s too hard to compete with Amazon, their prime shipping, and prices. 

I Want to Hear From You

I love creating this content, and I want to make sure I continue to evolve with our readership. My commitment to inclusive sizing continues to be top of mind as well as offering an assortment of price options. 

I’m fortunate that I worked with real women, of all shapes, sizes, races and lifestyles, for over a decade. Inclusion is easy for me except for the fact that I’m limited to what is being offered.

So for you, as the consumer, what are your priorities?

How important is price point?

Would you spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands?

Realistically, would you compromise quality for better pricing? Or would you prefer to spend more for higher quality?

How important is size range and inclusivity?

What “perks” do you look for from retailers?

Are you okay with longer shipping times, or do you expect Amazon shipping speed across the board?

Tell me in the comments below – there are no wrong answers!

Our Content is Inspired by Our Readers

Our readership inspires all of our posts and is not sponsored or paid for by brands or retailers. 

Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist View Post and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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Group Discussion: What is the Future of Retail?

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Janet B

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

59 and I have been trying to love shopping again since the year 2000. I used to love Ralph Lauren, but he took control back and I have had to upsize my clothes ever since. Ralph honey, some of us ladies have hips and chests. I too used to shop Nordies, but they turned into a bunch of small boutique sections with clothing I couldn't wear as a Mom, let alone to an office. Sorry, I don't need to have clothes that are tight in the chest so it looks larger than it is. It's already there.

I don't blame the retailers as much as I do the designers. Sure, it's easier to have ladies who are tall and smallest chested to make changes outs for the runway easier, but really? I have never been nor will be a preadolescent girl or boy. I will never be over 5'8". I'm forever 5'5". I will never have a smaller chest, unless I pay for a reduction and my hips were never narrow, nor will they be no matter how little I weigh.

As for online shopping. I hate it and love it. I find better selection, but I recently bought a dress from Brazil and following the size chart laughed as I bought a 3X. I'm a large 14. It arrived and was for a size 10. Made in China. I recently ordered Bras. Mature ladies will remember when you used the middle hook and were able to adjust in and out for your bodies monthly changes. Not so anymore. That band is what holds the chest up (not) and so is to be on the outside hook and you move in as it stretches. What a joke! And if your 35 around, the bra, size 36, will be exactly 27 inches around. Can you breathe? Don't ask about cup sizes. I've been a G, formerly DD, since my daughter was born. Oh yes, and minimizers only take off an 1" now, not 1 and 1/2". Trying to get a decent fit without ordering at least 8 bras at a time is impossible and COVID has stopped any in store try ons. I have seen several new style bras from start ups and have tried a couple - horrible. But I have high hopes Coco Chanel will come back to life as a plus size woman with a size H chest and save us all.

Meanwhile, I have to thank Megan to bringing some sanity and direction into my wardrobe. I can now at least wear and be happy in what I own and I have direction as to what I plan to buy to fill in the gaps. Now if only the clothing industry would cooperate with us.

colleen sargent

Thursday 25th of June 2020

M Great Post and thread. I dread going to the mall. Can't take the horrible music, smells and of course the less than great quality and customer service from the 16 year olds who always have something hanging out, or that they are baring. Clearly you pay more for quality than crap. But it seems that some of these prices are just over the top. Talbot's BR, AT. Occasionally I will do that but not all the time. I am a 12 which I am convinced is the most popular size bc it always seems to sell out fast. I am still working but mostly from home but still need to look professional on occasion. This thread has been extremely helpful in terms of basics to buy and not what NOT to buy. will be transitioning to semi retirement in a hopefully warmer climate. I would prefer to buy things American or hopefully not out of a sweat shop but alas know that does happen. I try to buy at small local shops at the holidays and when I can but again their location has to be easy and often it is not or their sizing is limited. I do tend to go back to shops where I have had success to try to support them and show appreciation. I used to try Macy's but when you have to walk through many departments to find the check out it is a bit tiresome. Once you find them the sales folks have been helpful. Think they appreciate a nice person rather than someone ripping them off or being rude which I see and HEAR all the time in stores./mall which is another reason to avoid. :( Because of my three girls I have gotten better at online shopping . Hate having to return stuff and have to try very hard NOT to settle. Thank you for your help in this area. They all shop online but try to make the switch to quality as they realize it lasts longer and they are all professionals and in their 30s. Youngest is in grad school but still needs to be professional for projects, etc. Love this blog and appreciate your thoughts and posts! Hope all these comments are helpful. THANK YOU!

Jo Galloway

Tuesday 16th of June 2020

I have always loved shopping - a day out, an essential part of any holiday, a chance to chill, some me time. However since January I’ve taken a year off, fallen out with fast fashion, refused to buy anything new. I was just so repulsed by the effect fashion was having on our planet. I filled the void with charity shop buying before lockdown, and after they all closed I went on line, looking for wonderful vintage pieces or quality items with life left in them. I’ve even got out a needle and thread to make things fit. So I agree that shopping has to change. Stores have become all about the quick profit, too much stock crammed in, a new ‘drop’ every week. Sizing needs to be sorted, and every brand needs to look at it’s product from top to bottom - from the creation of fabric, to the wages and conditions on the production line, to realistic pricing and overstocking. We need to encourage them to take the fast out of fashion, and make a product fit to buy and keep. Less landfill and more happy planet.

Terri Kirkpatrick

Saturday 13th of June 2020

Hi Megan,

I love your blog! I'm learning a lot from you about clothing and the fashion industry. I might even be dressing better! Please keep the articles coming.

As a preface to my comments, I am 67 years old and 5'8" tall.

My priorities are fit, quality, and style, with preferably natural fabrics. I spend most of my time in denim; summer wardrobe is jeans/knit shirts--winter is jeans/sweaters or blazers. I switch to dressier pants to go out.

I will pay more for my priorities, but price point is still a factor. I will spend more for ethically, responsibly sourced brands, but find it difficult to find that information. It's hard to even determine where a product is made! I am also willing to pay more for "made in the USA" products. I think "compromising quality for better pricing vs spending more for higher quality" is a balancing act most of us are faced with. That being said, the quality of clothing is drastically going down while we continue to pay more for it.

Size range and inclusivity are both important to me. I usually need tall trousers, which if available, are limited in style and colors. I also would like to be able to find age-appropriate, structured clothing that is still stylish, especially for dressier functions. And I need sleeves! I could not find a dressy top or dress last holiday season that wasn't sleeveless. I live in Ohio...we have cold weather and snow...who goes out in snow in sleeveless clothing?

And then there are shoes...I wear a size 10 or 11. When you get to the larger sizes, they tend to run wide...and there are no half sizes. I would like to be able to find stylish flats and low heels, in good quality leather, in my size.

As far as "perks," I like free shipping both ways. And I'm okay with longer shipping times.

Thank you for giving an opportunity for this discussion.

Karen Metzger

Saturday 13th of June 2020

This is so great—it’s obviously a topic that needs to be addressed! I am 6’ tall, so mall shopping has NEVER been a very good option for me because rarely do stores carry items in tall sizes, and if they do, it quickly becomes obvious that “tall” to them is very different than “tall” to me. You have opened my eyes to Banana Republic, and I’ve purchased a few items from them this spring/summer in a tall size and had good luck. But jeans and pants shopping is always the kicker—Eddie Bauer and JCPenney have been my go-to brands for YEARS when it comes to jeans and pants, and even still, it’s always online purchases—never in-store. I don’t always love the quality of what I get, but when there’s no place else to get what fits, what do you do?

I have somewhat of a limited budget, so I always shop sales. I do love TJ Maxx! I love the idea of Poshmark and eBay, but I really have to already know the brands/styles/sizes that work for me. Otherwise, it just becomes a very frustrating process. However, I did learn the importance of measurements as a result of shopping Poshmark!

Do you have any experience with eShakti? They are an online custom clothing business that I have had some luck with, primarily with dresses because of my height. Their prices almost seem too good to be true since they custom make everything, but their website has an assurance that they pay fair wages to their workers. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on them!

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