Posted December 15, 2020

Retail in 2021

By Grace Tino

For many in the world, 2021 could not come sooner, as it brings with it hope for improvement. Though the year may be changing, it does not wipe the slate clean from the extreme changes of the year prior. For retail businesses, this means reevaluating their strategies for another year of change. Consumer behavior changed drastically as fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its effects on the United States and global economies surged. Retailers and their employees faced tumultuous changes to their business strategies, responsibilities, and environments. With 2021 around the corner, retailers are not slowing down in their fight to adapt and overcome challenges from 2020. Retailers are already searching for valuable talent to create a solid foundation for adaptations and success in the year to come.

One of the most notable shifts brought about in 2020 was the transition from in-store to online shopping as a favorite of consumers. The rapid growth in e-commerce is expected to continue into 2021. Due to a combination of storefront closures and safety concerns, more than 84% of consumers have shopped through an e-commerce platform since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a study conducted by Shopify. As for the months to come, 79% of consumers maintain they plan to shop predominantly online. This spark in e-commerce has been a driving force of increased demand for warehouse and distribution personnel. Retailers will continue to hire these types of employees in 2021 to keep up with the increased demand for e-commerce.

In the meantime, as the country continues to work towards controlling the pandemic, stores have found new opportunities in online order fulfillment for customers. Many retailers have found it profitable to turn storefronts into small "warehouses" themselves, where orders can be put together by in-store workers and prepared either for rapid delivery or pick up by local customers. For those seeking to work in the traditional storefront setting, as opposed to warehouses and distribution centers, look for customer service positions regarding order fulfillment and curbside pickup. Malls will also be seeking to get in on the order fulfillment action by converting now-empty storefronts into perfect spaces for retailers to create small distribution centers. Storefronts will be converted in these spaces to pick up points from online orders as well as packing and shipping centers to meet online demand; these new spaces provide a great balance between a warehouse and traditional storefront for retail job seekers wanting a middle ground between the two.

Additionally, companies performing the deliveries, known as last-mile delivery companies, will be looking for drivers to tackle the increasing demands of their partnered retailers. These companies partner with the retailers directly to coordinate the delivery of their online orders. Opportunities for delivery workers with these companies are most accessible for those who have a license and personal vehicle. It is valuable for retail workers to consider adapting themselves to such opportunities as gig economy workers. Retailers that are incorporating last-mile services vary, including grocery stores, clothing stores, electronics, and more.

While e-commerce will continue to grow rapidly, the release of a vaccine and other safety practices will continue to make in person shopping increasingly safer throughout 2021. Common retail positions, such as cashiers, merchandisers, managers, and more will still be in demand as storefronts prepare to welcome growing amounts of foot traffic back. Building strong teams for storefronts will be more important than ever, as retailers strategize to create welcoming and attention-grabbing new in-store shopping experiences. Consumers have grown well-adjusted to a seamless and personalized experience from online platforms, which now sets a benchmark for a similar in-store experience. Experiential retail will be the new strategy retailers focus on for store reopening.

At the front lines of creating a special customer experience will be customer service and other in-store associates. To stand out for these new in-store positions, job seekers should highlight past customer service experiences and an array of knowledge on customizable shopping experiences. Retailers will be looking for associates that can get excited about going above and beyond to serve customers in a safe and much more attentive shopping environment and truly guide the reshaping of a well-rounded customer experience. Merchandisers will be equally sought-after and important to the reimagined in-store experience. This is an exciting time for merchandisers, or retail workers looking to try it out, as companies will be investing in up-to-date tools and insights for them to use in their strategies. From product buyers to visual merchandisers, retailers will need creative and adaptive employees that can blaze the trail for safe and engaging in-store experiences.

Though laws regarding essential workers and businesses will dissipate as the pandemic is controlled, the value of retail workers and other essential workers is stronger than ever. Uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and safety have been the driving force of a massive shift in consumer behavior in 2020. However, with retailers now gaining footing and understanding of these changes, they can strategize more effective adaptations for the new year to come. Retailers will need a variety of positions in their new facilities. These environments include warehouses, mini fulfillment centers, and reinvented storefronts. Retail job seekers can anticipate increased demand for warehouse positions, order fulfillment and curbside pickup positions, and even more traditional positions such as store associates. Though what is to come in 2021 is still unknown, retail employees can position themselves for success by starting their job search now. AllRetailJobs has thousands of opportunities with retailers strategizing for the new year- get started today!