Board Retailers Association: Specialty Retail Trends

As a retailer, you’ve been mulling over the multitude of articles with the same topics and trends. The data seems to go back and forth, with interpretations across the board. Our ongoing conversations with the Board and our members inspired us to think more and more about the state of the industry–and just what all of this means to specialty retailers.


Showrooming is the practice of browsing in-store and then buying at a lower price online. The threat to brick-and-mortars is real, of course, and perhaps even more real to smaller business, but merchants are really rising to the challenge. Based on our conversations, retailers recognize that showrooming is something that needs to be accepted and adapted to. Retailers are determining which items are susceptible to showrooming, and then ensuring that they have consistent pricing and promotions. Some retailers are also training staff members to deal with showrooming scenarios accordingly, and are managing them to be salespeople – not clerks.

Omnichannel retail

Retailers are arming themselves with various ways to reach consumers in real-time: through all available shopping channels, mobile internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, local advertising, and so on. Omnichannel retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but focused more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience. Retailers are creating digital shopping experiences in-store and building cooperative partnerships with nearby businesses. They’re ensuring that their websites are mobile friendly and responsive. Social media is being used to build community and engage with consumers, and retailers are focusing on customer service across all channels to build brand loyalty. Retailers are also realizing how important it is to consider paid search and the optimization of landing pages – both online and on the web. They’re using search retargeting to gain new customers and target existing ones.

It’s all about catering to the consumer,” says Mike Duncan, BRA President.  “Where are they doing their research, where are they shopping and how are they making purchases? Once you understand these behaviors as they relate to your business, you can create channels that market in a far more effective way.”

The millennial shopper

Retailers have become increasingly interested in millennial consumers, and there are a multitude of studies about their buying habits. You’ve see the (conflicting) articles! They’re “lazy and unprepared” (Bentley University), yet “forging a distinctive path into adulthood” (Pew Research). Whether the fascination stems from their positioning as digital natives or overall “mystique” of their beliefs and opinions, retailers are overcome with how to successfully market to millennials. Hell, there is even a “”

The bottom line is that incorporating buyer personas, and thoroughly understanding each, is important in your strategy. The millennial is just that – a persona – and by 2020, they’ll have become the majority of the workforce. Their annual spending is projected to double in that time frame as well.

Becoming a Destination Retailer

Retailers are not only dappling into experiential marketing – they’re creating storefronts attractive to and popular among consumers for more than just their products. They’re making the shopping experience fun, and attracting customers with its ambiance and price. A great example of this? Cabela’s. The tourist attraction and shop, all in one. (Check out this interesting Cabela’s case study in destination retailing.)

“Whether it’s a coffee pop-up, an art installation or simply blending in lifestyle elements that are not traditionally found in brick and mortar shop, retailers are focusing on creating a one-of-a-kind experience for customers when they walk through the door,” says Mara Stimac, BRA Membership & Marketing Director.  “By giving them something they can’t get anywhere else, it’s just one more way to differentiate your business.” 

2014 is all about influencing consumer behaviors to bring a new energy to their brand as much as it is about connecting with customers in entirely new ways.