Which retailer will rule in 2020?

Discussion
Neiman Marcus grand opening, Hudson Yards, NYC - Photo: Neiman Marcus
Jan 03, 2020
Tom Ryan

Which retailer has the brightest business prospects at the start of the new year? Will it be one from the list of retailers that made positive headlines in 2019 or a completely different business that finds the key to consumers’ mobile wallets in 2020?

The past year was a good one for a number of retailers and executives who earned accolades from the press and, in some cases, investors. 

Walmart was selected as “2019 Retailer of the Year” by Progressive Grocer. The grocery trade pub honored Aldi the prior year. Jim Dudlicek, editorial director of Progressive Grocer, said in a statement, “Among retailers that sell groceries, Walmart over the past year has been head and shoulders above the pack in the reinvention of routine buying and selling.”

In September, Supermarket News named Giant Foods as “Retailer of the Year” and called out the launch of its new Giant Heirloom Market concept store. Supermarket News’ editors wrote, “Heirloom Market epitomizes that customer-centric approach and gives Giant a vehicle to expand deeper into population-dense, lucrative urban areas.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods was named Footwear News’ “Retailer Of The Year” as its “move to pull guns from its shelves took a positive turn for business.”

Neiman Marcus beat out Selfridges and Bloomingdale’s to be named “Retailer of the Year” by Luxury Daily. The chain earned this distinction for bold moves, including opening its first New York City store, expanding into new categories such as clean and CBD beauty, launching curated collections based on emerging consumer trends, and embracing retail’s evolution with an investment in secondhand retailer Fashionphile.

Target’s Brian Cornell was honored as “Top CEO of the Year” by CNN Business for leading a company that was able to manage pressure from Amazon.com and Walmart and find “the right balance between physical stores and digital commerce.”

Kohl’s Michelle Gass earned “2019 Executive of the Year” from Retail Dive as well as “CEO of the Year” from BizTimes, the business journal focused on Kohl’s home market of Milwaukee. BizTimes praised Ms. Gass’ “outside-the-box approach to an ever-changing retail landscape.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which companies would be on your list of candidates to earn the distinction of top retailer of the year for 2019? What retailers are you expecting big things from in 2020?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Even though Amazon continues to dominate online, I think that Target is doing a great job of becoming Target 2.0, a true omnichannel retailer. "
"My nomination for transformational turnaround in 2020 is Signet. The company is entering the third year of its Path to Brilliance strategy..."
"Best Buy! Best Buy! Best Buy! MAJOR pivot against showrooming for online sales, a VERY robust e-commerce platform using advanced technologies for conversions..."

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23 Comments on "Which retailer will rule in 2020?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Despite the challenges some retailers are facing, it’s encouraging to see so many strong and successful retailers doing well. The retailers mentioned certainly deserve the accolades, but I would also include Lululemon in the mix. Same-store sales are up strongly, their stock price is at an all-time high, they recently opened a new experiential/flagship store in Chicago – and they did it all while staying true to their brand. Well done Lululemon.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Most of the retailers listed in the article should continue to do well in 2020. But when looking closely, Walmart and Target stand out for their ability, as the article said, in getting it right between in-store and digital. To me that’s the key, and that is what all retailers need to focus on going forward. Customers do not look at a retailer as two companies, in-store or online. They view them as one company that has stores and a website. Too often, retailers penalize customers for not being able to get the discount in-store and only online or the other way around. Promotional offers too often are different online than in-store. These are damaging practices, and they infuriate customers. So to me, the 2020 winners will be the retailers who will continue to find ways of making the shopping experience the same, whether it be in-store or online. Programs like BOPIS are a great start at giving the customer the option to use both online and in-store. These ideas will continue as retailers learn… Read more »
Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I believe chains like H-E-B, Walmart and Target will continue to innovate and really focus on the retail experience in 2020. I am very interested to see what new management will do with Bed Bath & Beyond — there is so much potential and so much need for change there.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Neiman Marcus? With $5 BILLION in debt. Anywhere else, this company would have been out of business long ago. Target still gets my vote for most innovative and YOY sales increases.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

There are additional contenders which both could be added to the 2019 list and are well positioned for continued success going into 2020. The experiential and lifestyle narratives are now overtaking the need to have an omnichannel operation. While the physical and digital worlds are colliding, retailers who can not only tell a good story, but also drive new experiences will win the day in 2020.

It was truly noteworthy to see that Target, Walmart, and Best Buy led the charge, and were offering consumers a choice beyond Amazon. But even more so it’s truly impressive to see what Nordstrom has accomplished. Their bold and courageous move to open their largest department store on 57th Street, full of restaurants and curated assortments makes a statement that reimagined department stores have a place in 2020 and beyond.

The DTC movement should be considered as well as Nike, Adidas, Puma, and others are opening showrooms which enable them to own their brand, messaging, pricing and strategies.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I’ll vote for TJX. Their brands are rock solid and their stores are compelling. In my neighborhood, we have had notable failures: Ralph Lauren, Barney’s, Jimmy Choo, Anthropologie, and more, but our TJMaxx and Marshalls are always bustling. I wish I’d purchased stock years ago.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

On the price value side of the equation, I absolutely agree with you Cathy. Love their stores in NY and the bargains are too good to resist. I wish I had bought their stock years ago as well!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
While this list of retailers is interesting and shows some very good innovations and success stories, I’m not sure all of them are well-positioned for 2020. For example, Kohl’s may have done some interesting things in their stores, e.g. inviting Alid, WW, and Amazon into their space, but it’s still not clear even from their own financial data that this is leading them to a successful future. I’ve stated in previous comments that while Amazon returns, for example, are bringing in consumers who normally would not shop at Kohl’s there is no evidence those same consumers are buying anything from the store if the merchandise hasn’t changed. Not to single out Kohl’s, but also with Neiman Marcus and Giant Foods it’s unclear to me if they can translate what they have done in 2019 into success in 2020. Neiman Marcus, in particular, has a heavy debt load to worry about. I suggest that Lululemon and Nike should be added to this list. Both have stayed true to their brand identity and created new physical shopping… Read more »
Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Target is well known for its marketing spots and high brand awareness. The company has been a stellar innovator in trendy merchandising and refreshing store visual presentations. They’ve continued to invest in IT and in creating a cross channel experience. While the jury is still out on its efforts to reboot grocery sales, in time Target will arrive at what appropriate focus the company ought to have in the grocery space. I expect 2020 to be a banner year for Target.

My nomination for transformational turnaround in 2020 is Signet. The company is entering the third year of its Path to Brilliance strategy and their stores (Kay and especially Zales) have looked sharper and significantly more refreshed this holiday season. Pagoda continues to grow impressive comp store sales with its piercing business and right-priced assortment. It’s an uphill battle with falling mall traffic but Signet is creating compelling reasons to visit their stores.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Target gets my vote, but with an asterisk. While they certainly had great results in an extremely difficult position between Walmart and Amazon, if they wish to extend their success, I believe they need to get their inventory management program cleaned up. The number of empty shelves, hooks, bins, and racks I see continues to be very high, and at some point, that will certainly impact results.

George Anderson
Staff

Target could be great, but out-of-stocks are consistent in this market and many others around the country. In this area, empty shelves in Target’s grocery section are the rule and not the exception. Improper handling of products (check out all the packages with freezer burn in the frozen case) and failure to rotate (can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found refrigerated product past date) are also significant issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Shawn Harris
BrainTrust

Even though Amazon continues to dominate online, I think that Target is doing a great job of becoming Target 2.0, a true omnichannel retailer. They once transformed from Dayton-Hudson to Target in order to combat discounters; now Target is on the path to their next transformation, and it’s looking great so far!

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust
L.L.Bean. That’s right … L.L.Bean. Not because they will do anything breathtaking or headline grabbing. Just out of the sheer excellence of their execution. The clarity and consistency of their brand promise. The loyalty shown by customers. I was in an L.L.Bean physical store yesterday. Jammed. Yes there was a “sale” banner at the front door, but most of the store was at regular ticketed price. Tables of men’s flannel shirts stacked high at regular price. The mall raced to lower and lower prices on flannel shirts in the weeks before Christmas. I watched Macy’s go from $24.99 to $19.99 to $12.99 to $9.99 … all for the privilege of selling out of flannels two weeks before Christmas. That’s just crazy. L.L.Bean seems to know that the coldest 60 days of the year are still ahead. Looks like they manage to have a disciplined weeks of supply process. Makes sense to me. So my vote goes to a retailer doing great on the fundamentals. Not looking for headlines, but knowing their brand promise and keeping… Read more »
Dave Nixon
BrainTrust

Best Buy! Best Buy! Best Buy!
MAJOR pivot against showrooming for online sales, a VERY robust e-commerce platform using advanced technologies for conversions ($8 Billion in revenue) AND the biggest model shift in retail (outside of Amazon trying to go physical retail) by moving into services: connected home, health, safety and connected associates. Hubert Joly and now Corie Barry are leading the retailer into the future and have defied the odds with smart decisions and a brilliant strategy to combat Amazon.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Good choice. Probably one of the most well-rounded omni/harmonized retailers out there.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I say Nordstrom for their bold moves into NYC the past few years. Time will tell as many analysts thought the Nordstrom family was crazy to open new department stores when so many like Barney’s were closing up shop, but so far it seems to be working and I hope they make it a success. No risk, no reward.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Target’s due, at least from this list. But IMO, some of the new “department stores” are rocking it too, like Showfields, Neighborhood Goods, 4-star, b8ta and new centers like Coal Drop Yards (U.K.) — those are retail-changing ideas that deserve much more attention, especially from the dinosaurs. The moniker of “Retailer of the Year” should not just go to the behemoths who drop a half trillion every year, but more so to the ideas that they eventually copy at scale, especially in the next 10 years.

Lauren Goldberg
BrainTrust

Target would top my list for continued success in 2020. Their investments in both digital and in-store have really created a seamless shopping experience. Others to watch would be the big names in the battle of the beauty retailers – Sephora and Ulta. Like Target, they are investing on both fronts (digital and in-store). If they continue with compelling product launches and influencer relationships, you will see them continue to gain market share from the department stores.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
4 months 26 days ago

If you consider 2019 performance it’s hard to argue against Target, Walmart and Amazon in that order. Amazon is still formidable for many things but they are showing signs of vulnerability (see this for more thoughts on Amazon.

As someone who has watched and invested in primary research on Amazon’s influence, it’s not a surprise to see leading retailers and challengers stepping up their commitment to customers and it will increasingly pay dividends for them.

I would also add Best Buy to the list as they continue to do a very good job across channels and Trader Joe’s for its strategic consistency. One smaller retailer I’d also nominate is Sid Mashburn who continues to defy category trends in menswear.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust
Best Buy, Nordstrom and Target each have moved the needle of innovation in-store. Physical retail showcasing products and customer service directly inspires goodwill and trust online. Like the saying goes, “the gift [goodwill] that keeps on giving.” From my research, there seems to be an Amazon and Walmart “fatigue” beginning to infiltrate the marketplace. Amazon at some point will become a victim of its own success due to the large scale climate and environmental effects of Amazon’s delivery model. Walmart, after purging its unicorns, now seems to be settling back and addressing its true customer, leveraging in-store shopping tech to serve their customers. 2020 and beyond hopefully will be a decade of substance for the consumer rather than bright, shiny press releases. Today, decades into online shopping huge gaps exist in a customer’s ability to navigate and shop through millions of individual SKUs on a retailer’s website. Cognitive computing has been thrown around for some time now. Time to move past computer science formula-based tech and move forward on human-based cognitive solutions.
Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Costco. This chain has ~788 stores, with each of them earning over $183 million in 2019 based on Kantar estimates. They’ve been able to expand into China where other retailers haven’t. Despite a dip in earnings at the end of 2019, they still grew at over 5 percent with little sign of slowing down. Globally other players for top retailer include Schwarz Group (Lidl/Kaufland), Aldi, and Ahold Delhaize – all of which have a majority of sales outside their home markets. Global expansion will be an important component. I would add Target and Best Buy to the list for ongoing growth and innovation as honorable mentions. Some of the other larger ones are also growing substantially (Walmart, Kroger, JD, Amazon) but I’m not sure they fit the retailer of the year designation. We’ll also see continued success with discount retailers–TJX, Ross, Dollar Tree, Dollar General et. al. Can’t wait to see what 2020 brings across the retail sector.

Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

While I’m a huge Target fan, the one retailer we haven’t yet mentioned is ULTA. I’ll say this much — They have the number of stores and distribution points to rival Target/Walmart, with a market that is growing. They’re expanding internationally, and it’s likely they’ll continue to focus on speed of delivery in the coming years based on their substantial supply chain. Keep an eye out for what ULTA has in store in the coming year!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Opening a NY store is a bold move … for a luxury retailer? “Long overdue” might be the term that comes to most minds.

I’m surprised somewhat by the exclusion of Macy’s from the list, judging by their frequent appearance on RW, they certainly tried (well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as the ballot seems to be comprised of “best in class” winners from various magazines and presumably WWD doesn’t do that).

I’m fine with the group choice — Target — but have mixed feelings about the upcoming “Who will disappear in 2020?” Contest … sure to be sad (maybe we should have the vote on a weekend).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Even though Amazon continues to dominate online, I think that Target is doing a great job of becoming Target 2.0, a true omnichannel retailer. "
"My nomination for transformational turnaround in 2020 is Signet. The company is entering the third year of its Path to Brilliance strategy..."
"Best Buy! Best Buy! Best Buy! MAJOR pivot against showrooming for online sales, a VERY robust e-commerce platform using advanced technologies for conversions..."

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