The big story of 2011 will be an evolving one: how consumers shop. Americans finally opened their wallets for Christmas 2010, and retailers soon will be able to ascertain if the surge was just holiday euphoria or a real turn in consumer behavior. Men’s wear and luxury goods were surprisingly robust, Internet sales continued to skyrocket and the stigma of shopping, a by-product of the recession, appears to have lifted from the consumer psyche — at least for now.
• BREAKING THE MOLD: Bigger isn’t always better. Look for retailers to experiment with formats to adapt to new settings and demographics and to spotlight the categories with the greatest potential. Wal-Mart, for instance, is rejiggering its SuperCenter formula to create stores as small as 80,000 square feet and plans a 3,500-square-foot “Wal-Mart on Campus” at the University of Arkansas, to include a pharmacy and licensed apparel. It continues to open Neighborhood Markets for food, pharmacy, beauty and convenience needs at 42,000 square feet or less.
Target has an urban prototype at 60,000 to 100,000 square feet versus its traditional 125,000- to 180,000-square-foot design.
Bloomingdale’s is exploring additional sites for its scaled-down, more specialized concept seen in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and in Santa Monica, Calif., and Anthropologie will open accessories-only stores and launch a wedding store concept, among others on the drawing board.
• IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Barneys New York has a new leader, chief executive officer Mark Lee, who is rebuilding the team and formulating a turnaround strategy.
Saks Fifth Avenue will continue to be cloaked in takeover rumors, with Tod’s Diego Della Valle buying up Saks shares and overtaking Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim as the largest shareholder.
J. Crew is moving toward completing a $3 billion deal with Texas Pacific Group and Leonard Green & Partners to go private, which will help the retailer develop its emerging Madewell, Crewcuts, men’s and bridal retail offshoots without being under the watchful eye of Wall Street and get serious about going global, as well.
Neiman Marcus may also see accelerated change, with Karen Katz now at the helm after succeeding Burt Tansky, who retired.
• GREEN LIGHT ON GLOBAL GROWTH: This is particularly true in Europe, where major cities represent huge volume opportunities for overseas expansion-minded firms such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret.
Brazil, where the economy is soaring, holds a lot of promise, as do China and India, where rising middle classes and consumer appetites are enticing American retailers who feel their businesses have saturated the U.S. markets.