2021 Year in Review and 2022 Trends

Dec 30, 2021
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

Graphic with festive gold baloons and text reading "Wishing you a Happy New Year 2022"

The past 20 months have been challenging for most retailers. With significant and regular shifts in consumer spending and growing fatigue with managing the impact of the pandemic, 2021 is yet another year most retailers will be happy to see in their rear-view mirror.

At a time when the industry has experienced some of the most transformative and innovative changes in our history, the leadership role of trade associations could not be more vital.

The Washington Retail Association (WR) represents thousands of storefronts throughout Washington State, including retail sectors ranging from small businesses to regional, multi-state, to global retailers, and have joined with them to form a more powerful voice on behalf of the retail industry. Our experienced team has worked diligently during a challenging year to effectively steward Washington’s retail experience in our mission to safeguard the interest of our members.

But questions remain. Where are we at today? What will the retail industry look like in 2022?Uncertainty is still a significant factor for every type of retailer as we end the year with various rapidly spreading variants causing disruption yet again.

Regardless of the uncertainty, the pandemic has continued to accelerate trends seen across the retail industry, several of which have been highlighted in a recent Forbes article. These trends will continue to have a profound impact in 2022.

In 2022 we will likely see an increased focus on sustainability, with conscious consumers prioritizing environmental stewardship from the retailers they frequent. Brands and retailers will work to strike the right balance to keep the cost of goods down while offering eco-friendly products that continue to meet the desires of consumers.

Hybrid Retail will continue to be a trend, with digital and physical environments remaining a part of the customer journey. During the pandemic especially, retailers have been gaining a more sophisticated understanding of the buying journey and how it crosses between online and offline, sometimes multiple times before customers make a purchase. This has underlined the need for truly hybrid retail to be adopted by large and small retailers alike.

At a time when consumer behaviors are changing quickly, customer experiences are more important than ever. We will see many retailers working diligently to emotionally engage the consumer and retain loyalty. With buy now, pay later, and the growing desire to return to brick-and-mortar stores, retailers will be focused on retaining existing customers as we move into a new year.

As I mentioned earlier, the new year is filled with uncertainty, but with uncertainly comes great opportunity.  We will all be keeping an eye on rising costs that may cause consumer caution. While I’m cautiously optimistic that consumer sentiment and shopping appetites are fully returning, as we witnessed during the holidays, the industry will be challenged to transform and innovate to provide the goods and services needed at a cost that will keep consumers coming back.

As retailers maneuver these challenges, WR’s talented and dedicated team stands ready to serve the ever-changing needs of our members. We look forward to working with and for you in the year ahead. If you are not yet a member of the Washington Retail Association (WR) – we hope you will consider joining in 2022.