Retail Business Influencers and CEOs Share Top Industry Predictions For 2021

Berns Communications Group Unveils Insights from Its Retail Influencer Network

NEW YORK--()--In 2020, the global pandemic disrupted retail supply chains, led companies to fast-track digitization and drove massive shifts in shopping behavior as consumers of all ages headed online to buy everything they couldn’t get in stores due to lockdowns or shortages.

Retailers and brands adopted new technologies to serve and stay close to customers during the pandemic, accelerating trends as varied as buy online, pick up in-store; alternative digital payment options; and livestreamed sales. E-commerce’s share of retail sales skyrocketed and, while most agree that frequent online shopping will become a permanent part consumers’ lives, the industry is still debating how quickly shoppers will return to physical stores once they feel it’s safe to do so.

To gain insight on where the industry is headed, Berns Communications Group asked the members of its Retail Influencer Network what they predict for 2021 as global vaccination efforts accelerate and retail and related sectors regain their footing. The Retail Influencer Network is a carefully selected group of senior business leaders and influential investors and analysts whose thought leadership is shaping the global retail industry.

“2020 has given rise to new consumer shopping habits that will likely stick post-vaccine,” said Stacy Berns, President of Berns Communications Group. “Since the start of the pandemic, our Retail Influencer Network has regularly brought together some of the greatest minds in retail to discuss these trends and better understand their long-term implications.”

According to these thought leaders, we can expect:

Travel and Entertainment Will Be Winners in the Second Half

  • The latter half of the year will look like the post-Prohibition era, with consumers who were able to financially weather the pandemic celebrating the vaccine rollout by booking over-the-top trips and stays at incredible hotels, says Lucy Lieberman, CMO of Tablet Hotels.
  • Millennials and Gen Zers will be especially eager to travel again in 2021 and pent-up demand for travel is at an all-time high, says Nancy Berger, Publishing Director for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health and Seventeen.
  • Consumers will spend heavily on parties and travel, boosting sales of dress apparel as spending shifts away from categories like home goods and backyard accessories, predicts William Susman, Managing Director at Threadstone Advisors.
  • The pandemic-fueled eat-at-home trend will create a permanent headwind for restaurants and a tailwind for grocers, says Rachel Elias Wein, Founder and CEO of WeinPlus. The money consumers save by not dining out will sustain increased discretionary stay-at-home spending through the second quarter, shifting to travel and entertainment in the third quarter, she says.

A Shift in Consumers’ Values

  • Wellness will be considered a necessity, not a luxury, according to Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW. The pandemic has prompted consumers to rethink how they live, how they work, what they value and what they want in their life, she says. They’ve turned their attention to health and well-being and will look to shop from trusted brands that marry technology with meaning to help them live better, more connected lives.
  • Employees will still want to work remotely, predicts Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. They’ll likely want to dress up and return to the office on occasion, but after sitting in traffic and being late for the morning meeting a few days in a row, they’ll be asking to work from home again forever, he says.

A Return to Brick-and-Mortar Shopping, but with a Focus on Smaller Local Stores

  • Retailers will continue to focus on localized assortments and smaller-footprint stores, while creating microfulfillment centers in cities and malls to meet online shoppers’ delivery and pickup demands, says Sandra Campos, CEO of Project Verte, former CEO of Diane von Furstenberg and Founder of Fashion Launchpad.
  • More consumers will choose to shop from local small businesses, which will strengthen their omnichannel offerings by adopting technologies that bigger retailers have relied on, says Retail Minded Founder Nicole Reyhle.
  • We’ll see more livestreaming from stores in 2021 as retailers look to engage more deeply with customers and offer new personal shopping experiences, predicts Maxine Clark, Founder and former CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
  • There will be an all-out battle for foot traffic once shelter-in-place orders are lifted, Trove Founder and CEO Andy Ruben predicts. Retailers and brands will be judged by the early traffic and sales numbers they generate at that point, similar to how Black Friday results are seen as a gauge of holiday success. But it will take more than discounts on the same old products to drive traffic, so brands should consider special incentives, such as offering gift cards in exchange for resale trade-ins, to lure consumers back into stores, he says.
  • Nontraditional buyers will swoop in to buy the assets of brick-and-mortar retailers that can’t wait out the recovery, predicts Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. We’ll see more mall operators, e-commerce and tech firms, and even some health-tech and fintech firms expand their brand portfolios through acquisitions that provide additional distribution channels and more points of contact with consumers.

Mobile Apps, New Fulfillment Options and “MTC” Will Be Hallmarks of E-Commerce

  • Mobile will be the ultimate battleground, accounting for 45% of all e-commerce sales in 2021, predicts Miya Knights, Publisher of Retail Technology magazine. Apps deliver higher engagement and conversion and offer a more intuitive, feature-rich customer experience that can be blended with the sensory advantages of the store experience.
  • Curbside pickup and ship-from-store fulfillment will exceed orders fulfilled from warehouses in major metropolitan areas as brands create more smaller-format fulfillment centers, says Nitin Mangtani, Founder and CEO of PredictSpring.
  • More brand manufacturers will sell directly to consumers as the “MTC” trend gains traction, says Sucharita Kodali, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research.

The Rise of Gen Z

  • Gen Zers will emerge as the “winners” in the post-COVID-19 world, says Keval Desai, General Partner at InterWest Partners. These digital and social media natives, who account for 30% of the world’s population, will have been largely untouched by the health impacts of the pandemic, while benefitting from the acceleration of all the trends that are reimagining retail into what they have always wanted it to be.

About Berns Communications Group, LLC

Berns Communications Group is a New York–based strategic public relations firm widely known for connecting the worlds of technology and commerce in ways that improve and advance the shopping experience. We build corporate brand and executive leadership platforms that drive awareness, education and industry leadership, leveraging our strong network of relationships with influential industry leaders, CEOs and prominent journalists across all media, as well as our unparalleled knowledge of the trends shaping the industry. For more information, please visit


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Berns Communications Group
Michael McMullan/Danielle Poggi /