2019 Retail Dive Awards Reflections

This past week, Retail Dive announced their selections for each category of their annual Retail Dive Awards.

Here’s the breakdown with my commentary following:

Retailer of the Year: Walmart. Walmart has done a lot of really cool things this past year and has definitely been an interesting retailer to follow, however, I just can’t get behind calling them the retailer of the year for 2019. Despite many innovations, Walmart has also failed in a lot of aspects as well, most notably with Jetblack. The Jetblack headlines this past year were almost embarrassing to follow, and to me personally, Walmart is not a grocery store that I would ever willingly go to to fulfill my grocery needs. I understand that Walmart can be a lifeline for middle to lower class consumers and is sometimes the only mega retailer in a geographic area that can support the needs of the community, I just don’t think they deserve the title of retailer of the year. My picks: Kroger, Amazon, or Target.

Executive of the Year: Michelle Gass, Kohl’s. What? I know that Kohl’s is really trying to catch up, but accepting Amazon package returns doesn’t cut it. Nothing against Michelle Gass, but to me, Kohl’s is still an irrelevant retailer and any retailer that I consider to be irrelevant cannot possibly have the “Executive of the Year.” I don’t have a personal selection for this category, but I would probably chose an executive who’s company has had increasing profits throughout the year.

Disruptor of the Year: ThredUp. I can get behind this one, but if I had made this decision, I probably would have chosen The RealReal. I think that The Realreal has disrupted the luxury industry significantly despite the setbacks of authentication and what not that they have faced. I think that there is a more sustainable potential for The RealReal to disrupt the luxury sector than there is for ThredUp to disrupt the mainstream apparel sector. I am 100% for ThredUp being implemented in department stores such as Macy’s and actually think that that’s a revolutionary concept for department stores, but I need more time to look over the actual effectiveness and results of these ThredUp “pop-ups” in these department stores. I love ThredUp for their commitment to finding second lives for all of the clothing items that would otherwise be thrown away, but in the span of 2019, I think that The RealReal has caused more retail disruption.

Trailblazer of the Year: Universal Standard. I totally agree with this. I have not purchased anything from Universal Standard, but I follow them on social media and am always amazed with their ranges of sizing and products and their use of diverse models that not many clothing brands could even imagine to compare to.

Store Concept of the Year: Nordstrom Local. The Nordstrom Local store concept just isn’t interesting or innovative to me. Merchandise-free stores are now just becoming a trend, and if I am going to a Nordstrom, I want to see a lot of curated merchandise from different brands that don’t have standalone stores in my area and I want to walk out with things that I can wear immediately. In terms of their personalized styling or alterations, I think that every Nordstrom store should have an alterations section and to emphasize personal styling and customer service and engagement is kind of boring. I don’t need styling from Nordstrom and I don’t want to be bothered while I’m shopping. I feel that this store concept only appeals to a limited sector of consumers and it isn’t something that’s able to be implemented on a mass scale, and that’s something that Nordstrom as a brand needs. I don’t have a specific pick for a different store concept that I think deserves the title, but I do want to point out that Canada Goose is definitely leading the innovations in store concepts. From their cold rooms to their inventory-less store in Toronto that has real snow and ice, I think that being able to emerge your customer in a realistic environment for where they will be using the product is a genius tactic.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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