This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Retail, especially in the past several years, has been an industry full of change. Understanding this change is vital for the success of your business, whether it is well-established or newly launched, as it will help you tune in to what your industry is doing and how consumers are evolving.
Here we will look at some of the most recent statistics around retail sales, brick-and-mortar operations, and consumer preferences that can help your business get ahead.
General Retail Sales Statistics
Your bottom line is the most important factor for your business, and predicting what that might look like is vital for creating a healthy budget and keeping your business afloat. Despite the tumultuous economic conditions of the last several years, the retail industry is actually doing quite well and projected to continue to grow.
1. 2020 ended with a 3% decline in total worldwide retail sales to $23.8 trillion
While a small decline is certainly not what any retailer desires for their industry, considering the year that was 2020, this is actually a favorable outcome compared to what could have been. The fact that the year ended without any catastrophes in retail revenue and spending actually indicated a positive momentum as the world moved into 2021, with growth coming from the brick-and-mortar sector.
2. Global retail sales are expected to grow by 7.2% in 2021
Economists from eMarketer recently revealed their predictions for global retail sales in 2021 and things are looking good. They predict a 7.2% increase in sales from 2020, hitting a new sales record at $25.04 trillion. The pattern is supposed to continue into 2022 with another 6.6% increase in sales over 2021.
3. US retail sales hit $570.6 billion in May 2021
While retail sales certainly saw dips around the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election, revenue for US retailers has been on a steady climb since 2017. In fact, in May, retail sales hit a record high—over $570 billion in the single calendar month.
4. NRF forecasts that US retail spending will reach $4.44 trillion in 2021
While early this year the National Retail Federation (NRF) was excited to announce that it anticipated retail spending to hit $4.33 trillion, in June 2021, it revised its statement with an even larger number. Now the NRF is forecasting a $4.44-$4.56 trillion spending budget for 2021. The NRF attributes this increase in spending to the post-pandemic economic recovery and the influx of cash from stimulus checks
5. 60% of small businesses expect their revenues to grow over the next 12 months
While last year at this time, business owners were facing the pandemic and only 34% of them expected their revenues to grow, this year, the majority of small businesses (some 60%) anticipate revenue growth over the coming 12 months.
6. From 2016 to 2021, small retailers have had average revenue growth of 51.33%
While it can be easy to get stuck in day-to-day numbers, it is helpful to know that across the country for the last five years, small business retail revenue has been growing at a steady pace. Small businesses in general have seen a 53.05% increase in revenue from 2016 to 2021, with retailers specifically not far behind at 51.33%.
One of the best ways to take advantage of these growth trends and boost your bottom line is to focus your marketing efforts. Learn more about effective marketing techniques with our retail marketing guide.
Brick-and-Mortar Store Statistics
Brick-and-mortar stores took a hit during the pandemic in terms of foot traffic and overall revenue. The tides, however, are changing as the world begins to shift back to normalcy.
7. US consumers are spending 11% more time and money in-store in 2021
In a study from Mood Media looking at consumer sentiment, it found that US consumers are spending 11% more time and money in brick-and-mortar stores than they were in 2020. This increase is huge—the largest uptick when compared globally—and speaks to US consumers’ readiness to return to pre-pandemic shopping habits.
8. Only 6% of consumers have yet to return to physical stores
While health and safety hesitations still linger about returning to in-store shopping, the Mood Media survey found that only 6% of global shoppers have not returned. There is still progress to be made, but the trend to return to pre-pandemic shopping behaviors looks promising with nearly a third of consumers saying that they have returned to pre-2020 shopping habits.
9. 80% of global consumers feel comfortable or very comfortable shopping in stores
The majority of global consumers are comfortable with returning to in-store shopping in 2021. About a third (32%) say they are somewhat comfortable, and only 16% are uncomfortable. This, paired with Mood Media’s finding that 29% of consumers report spending more per in-store shopping visit, is a hopeful sign for the future for brick-and-mortar stores.
10. In 2020, convenience stores were three times as common as any other kind of retail location in the US
Convenience stores led brick-and-mortar retail locations in 2020 with over 150,000 locations. They were followed by grocery stores (47,000) and drug stores (41,000). As we will see in later stats, convenience is a leading reason that shoppers choose to shop brick-and-mortar instead of online, and this figure only further proves that convenience is where consumer demand lies.
11. Convenience is most important at checkout for 40% of in-store shoppers
Convenience is a top priority for most shoppers, so you should prioritize creating an easy and streamlined experience anywhere you can. An NRF study found that 40% of shoppers think convenience at checkout is the most important.
12. One-third of consumers say they don’t trust internet-only businesses
While ecommerce is certainly growing, there is still a third of consumers who don’t trust internet-only businesses to act in their best interests. Trust is a major factor in fostering loyalty and subsequently driving your sales.
13. 59% of consumers say the ability to feel, touch, and try the product is key for shopping in-store vs online
When asked what factor drives them to choose to shop in stores vs online, 59% of consumers said that the ability to experience the product in person was important. Just over 50% of respondents cited convenience, and 45% said the ability to browse.
14. Masks are the biggest deterrent to in-store shopping across the globe
While consumers do like some of the hygiene and convenience services that the pandemic inspired, they do not like wearing masks while shopping. A substantial 46% of respondents to the Mood Media 2021 consumer sentiments report said masks were their biggest deterrent to in-store shopping.
15. 24.8% of consumers plan to shop in stores more frequently than they did in 2020
Only about a quarter of consumers plan to shop in stores more in 2021 than they did in 2020, while 43.8% say their pandemic shopping habits won’t change and 16.1% say they will shop in stores less. This is not the most promising outlook for primarily brick-and-mortar retailers. However, if you can understand the 2021 consumer and create an experience that appeals to their shopping habits and preferences, you will be able to drive traffic to your store.
16. 33% of businesses plan to incorporate intelligent automation into their store operation in the next three years
In a report on the role of AI in retail’s present and future, the NRF partnered with IBM found that 33% of stores plan to adopt intelligent automation into their store operations in the next four years. Not only that, but 41% of retail businesses are already using AI for their store operations, and 70% of retailers are using or planning to use AI to enhance the in-store experience.
You can learn more about new technologies and future trends in our piece on POS Trends & Technologies Shaping the Future of Retail.
17. For every store closure, two new stores open
While the pandemic certainly brought hard times to many retailers, there is hope. As we saw above, sales are projected to reach record highs in the coming years and consumers are ready to get back out there. Not only that, but in a report from the NRF, they found that there were double as many store openings as closings throughout the pandemic.
Retail Consumer Statistics
As we have seen above and know firsthand, the pandemic changed the global consumer. Today, customers have different priorities and shopping habits than they did even two years ago. Here we will look at consumer shopping habits and preferences so you can make strategic decisions for your business that will appeal to the modern consumer.
18. Post-pandemic, 74% of Americans want to support small businesses more
As people watched the world around them close down and small businesses suffer as COVID-19 restrictions took hold, Union Bank found that this made people ready to rally around their local shops. In a November 2020 survey, 74% of Americans said that they “feel an increased sense of community responsibility to help local businesses during this time.” Not only that, but 69% of people are willing to pay more to shop at small businesses.
19. 56% of shoppers plan to buy more from independent and local brands during the 2021 holiday season
In its 2021 holiday shopping behaviors study, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that consumers plan to buy more of their holiday presents and supplies from small businesses. Other things that shoppers are going to prioritize this season include visiting fewer stores than normal (55%) and shopping stores with loyalty programs (53%).
Learn more about loyalty programs and how you can implement one for your business with our customer loyalty program guide.
20. Nine out of 10 parents say that Gen-Z influences all purchases
In its 2019 survey, the NRF found that 90% of parents said that their Gen-Z children play a role in all their household and general purchases. This is a large shift from what Gen-Z’s parents experienced, with four out of five respondents saying that their kids are more involved in purchases than they were as kids.
The NRF concluded from this and other stats on Gen-Z’s influence on purchasing decisions that “Gen-Z is responsible for a fundamental shift in the way families shop. This is having an impact on the retail industry.”
21. Preteen spending on back-to-school products has more than doubled in the last 10 years
Between 2009 and 2019, pre-teen spending more than doubled from $11.94 to $26.40. According to the NRF report, “When it comes to spending their allowance or hard-earned money from their first jobs, these first true digital natives contribute most to entertainment purchases such as apps, books/music, and toys/games.”
Gen-Z is a new generation with new sensibilities and shopping habits. You can learn more about catering to this younger generation with marketing insights from Forbes.
22. Over 90% of consumers are more likely to choose a retailer based on convenience
In a 2020 consumer behaviors report, the NRF found that convenience is increasingly important to the modern consumer. As the world was forced to shift almost completely to online shopping during the pandemic, people became accustomed to the convenience of shopping from home, and now prioritize that ease over other aspects of shopping. In fact, 83% of consumers say that convenience is a greater factor than it was five years ago.
In the report, the NRF found that convenience was primarily a time issue. Many consumers feel like they have less free time than they did five years ago, and do not want to dedicate as much energy or as many hours to shopping.
23. 52% of shoppers say that more than half of their purchases are influenced by convenience
A major follow-up question in the matter of convenience is, what types of purchases does convenience impact? The answer is—most of them. The majority of consumers (52%) say that convenience impacts more than half of their purchasing decisions.
24. 63% of consumers say convenience is very important for grocery purchases
Whether convenience is a major factor in a consumer’s purchasing decisions depends on the industry. NRF’s survey found that consumers were more likely to make everyday purchases (like for food and gas) based on convenience. They also found that consumers were willing to pay more for convenience for those same purchases.
The graphs below break down the percentage of consumers that rate convenience as “very important” in their purchasing decision as well as the percent of consumers willing to pay more for convenience.
From the NRF: “Today’s consumer is more likely to place a premium on convenience in their routine, everyday purchases. They are willing to pay more when it comes to groceries, personal care items, and pet supplies. But shoppers also value convenience when purchasing clothing and electronics, where it’s potentially harder for brands to compete on just price and quality. And shoppers say they are willing to pay more for convenience in these areas.”
25. 97% of consumers have backed out of a purchase due to inconvenience
Convenience not only makes a purchase, but it can also break it. The 2020 NRF report found that nearly every consumer (97%) has backed out of a purchase due to inconvenience. Even when consumers cited other factors like product quality and price as important factors in purchasing decisions, inconvenience was the overwhelming factor in making consumers back out of a purchase.
26. The quality of the item is more important than the price
The NRF found that despite the economic downturn of 2020, quality was the top factor in purchasing decisions rather than price. Of their respondents, 32% reported that quality mattered most while shopping, and 30% said price.
27. 40% of consumers identify as “purpose-driven”
In a 2020 report from the NRF, they found that most consumers typically fall into two buckets. Either they are purpose-driven (40%), meaning that they prioritize the company’s values in making purchasing decisions, or they are value-driven (41%) meaning they want good quality for the price.
28. 57% of consumers are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce negative environmental impact
In addition to a desire for convenience and quality, modern consumers also want the companies that they patronize to be environmentally conscious. This is especially true of younger generations and businesses that sell food products. However, with over 50% of consumers willing to change their shopping habits for environmental reasons, there is good reason to adopt environmentally conscious practices.
29. 27% of consumers report changing their shopping habits “a lot” since the start of the pandemic
The new normal, as they say, is bringing new habits. A consumer sentiment report for Mood Media found that eight of 10 people report having changed their shopping habits since the start of the pandemic, and 27% of them have changed their habits “a lot.”
30. A third of US shoppers hope to continue ordering online and collecting items in-store after pandemic restrictions lift
Some habits that came from the pandemic aren’t going away, including consumers’ desire to use click-and-collect services. While click-and-collect was initially adopted as a safety precaution during the pandemic, it has become a preferable and convenient way for shoppers to buy from brick-and-mortar businesses.
Learn how to implement click and collect services at your business with our step-by-step guide.
31. 29.8% of consumers said that in-location customer service has improved in 2021
One of the things that Raydiant found in its State of Human Behavior Report was that consumers are experiencing better customer service at brick-and-mortar retail locations than they were before the pandemic. This is because “experience” or the feelings and services you provide is increasingly becoming how retailers are getting people back in stores.
In addition to convenience offerings like click-and-collect or curbside pickup, retailers should also work to improve their customer service. Good interaction with an employee is a great way to foster loyalty and get customers to visit your storefront rather than shopping solo online.
Up your customer service game with our 14 tips for retail customer service.
Retail is a fluid and ever-changing industry that evolves with our culture and can change in an instant. Over the past couple of years, especially, retail has seen new trends and shopping behaviors emerge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this piece, we took a look at some of these emerging patterns, examining retail sales, brick-and-mortar trends, consumer behaviors, and the future of retail. Using the information above, you will be ready to combat the changing retail market and allow your business to adapt and thrive as the industry evolves.