To describe 2020 as a challenging year would be a massive understatement. Pre-March things were going largely as predicted but then everything quickly changed.

Nothing is ever black and white of course and although Covid-19 has brought about seismic changes some of these have been positive whereas others have undoubtedly been devastatingly damaging.

Regardless of whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty type of person the team here at Retail Insider have put together some thoughts on 2020 to satisfy both camps.

Glass half full

A big area of focus for Retail Insider has always been digital. We’ve been highlighting this area for a number of years and 2020 has seen the spotlight very firmly move onto digital. It is absolutely undisputed that online has been the big positive to come out of Covid-19 and although it was already an incredibly important part of retail its role in the sector has been accelerated dramatically. There has been much talk of five years of digital activity having been squeezed into the past nine months or so.

Against this backdrop the industry has been incredibly innovative. Projects that would have taken a year to deliver were brought to life in a matter of weeks. And many retailers dealt with multiple projects in parallel – with great success. They have achieved levels of productivity that would have been unthinkable pre-Covid-19.   

The Retail Insider ‘Digital Retail Innovations’ report for 2020 (sponsored by Webloyalty) highlights just how creative and proactive the retail industry has been to adapt to an environment they did not expect nor had they experienced before. This particular report has been the most powerful we’ve produced and reflects very positively on the industry.

Behind these innovations are some the brightest people in the sector and this year Retail Insider has been extremely pleased to produce its annual ‘Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report (sponsored by K3 BTG) – that celebrates these digitally-progressive individuals. Again, we’d argue that this year’s publication has been one of the strongest we’ve created.

Within this report are numerous people who have created new business models – including many dealing direct-to-consumer – and these have shone particularly brightly in this year of Covid-19.

Glass half-empty

While it is great to celebrate those individuals and businesses that have succeeded during this very challenging year it is incredibly sad that it has resulted in a number of failures. We could argue that many were already troubled and that Covid-19 merely pushed them over the edge but whatever the ultimate causes it is still disappointing to see businesses fail and people lose their jobs.

The wider impact of this is that high streets and shopping centres invariably lose some of their value in people’s lives and the broader community around them suffers as a result. The impact of Covid-19 on the broader commercial property market will take some time to play out and the ramifications will be enormous for everybody. Any individual with a pension will have some component of their funds invested in the commercial property market. When stores fail we all ultimately pay a price – we just don’t yet know how high it will be.

But let’s now be too downbeat because with the distribution of the vaccine now in full swing we can at least see light at the end of the tunnel. As we progress through 2021 let’s hope some of this light shines on the retail sector and all the people who sail within her.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Retail Insider team. We look forward to seeing you in 2021

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider