How Retail Is Changing for 2021 and Beyond


2020 changed… everything. It is difficult to think of a single aspect of life that was not altered: work, education, recreation, entertainment, and, of course, shopping. When cities went on virtual lockdown, people were discouraged from making anything other than essential trips to the grocery store. Many “non-essential” retail businesses shuttered for the short-term. Shoppers are returning to stores – but there is no doubt there will be lasting changes. Let’s take a look at how retail is changing for 2021 and beyond.

Future Trends In Retail

Some trends we foresee for 2021:

  • The Mall: Reimagined.

    Instead of one behemoth shopping center with a large anchor store, we’ll see smaller environments popping up throughout the country. Malls were already on the decline before the pandemic, but this has forced the issue. In many areas, we are seeing shopping centers transformed into “villages” with pedestrian-only streets. This creates a more relaxing, welcoming environment. And it allows for more effective social distancing. 

Other existing mall spaces may be repurposed as schools, community centers, senior centers, and more. For example, in Burlington, Vermont, thousands of high school students were displaced after a PCB contamination in their school. They moved into the empty Macy’s store downtown! These spaces have a use, but we may have to rethink traditional models.

  • Fulfilment Hubs.

    One way in which unused retail space is being used as fulfilment hubs. As more consumers shop online, these centers can handle the work and get goods out to people in their community. Think of them as mini- or micro-distribution centers.

  • Touch-Free.

    As we turn the COVID corner, many of us will still be hyper-conscious of the rampant spread of germs. Don’t expect hand sanitizer to go anywhere! And do expect more touch-free tech at retail locations, including contactless payment and delivery, virtual fitting rooms, and even foot-operated vending machines. Retail owners and tenants can make sure customers feel as comfortable as possible by integrating these solutions.

  • Delivery.

    Consumers will expect more than pizza delivered to their doors. Many retailers adapted to COVID restrictions by offering contactless delivery of everything from box store items and groceries to pet food and bed linens. 

  • New Store Designs and Experiences.

    Many brands are pulling away from traditional aisles and endless shelves stock with inventory. Instead, they are developing innovative models to meet the needs of consumers. For example, they may schedule sales appointments. Here, customers come in and experience the products and then order online. 

We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to future trends in retail. But one theme emerges: physical, brick and mortar spaces are not only relevant – consumers want and need them. How they shop may look different, but there is no doubt that retail centers and stores are a critical component in meeting customer expectations and demands. Visit belmont associates for more information.