For some retailers 2020 has been their best year yet, while others have been through their toughest year yet. A lot are hanging on and wondering if they’ll survive 2021. There’s no doubt that the events of this year have hastened the demise of a lot of well known companies. The trickle down effect of those closures will be felt well into next year, and the worst affected people and businesses will be those least able to bounce back

What are the Three Big Changes that have happened in Retail in 2020

The Good

Having to stay at home through various restrictions has prompted people to think about what they actually need to buy and where they buy it from. Limited to a small radius from their homes meant that consumers have valued and supported their local shops. There has also been a long overdue boost in online shopping with Irish retailers. More than half of consumers’ online spend since the COVID-19 crisis began has been with Irish SME’s, according to  a recent Tipping Point Report by the IE Domain Registry. Consumers are also showing a desire to purchase more consciously by buying more sustainable goods that will help to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Bad

The two lockdowns in Ireland had a devastating effect on most retailers. There were a few notable exceptions, it’s been a good year for those selling food and goods deemed “essential.” Despite several government schemes to help businesses to survive, many will not be able to weather the COVID storm. The hospitality industry has been decimated, with many cafés and restaurants offering take away, click and collect or meal kits in an attempt to retain customer loyalty and keep some staff in employment.

The Ugly

This is where we come to the known unknowns.

The first is the continuing saga of the pandemic and how this will play out in society and in business. Whilst there is light at the end of the tunnel we have a long way to go yet. Current trends show an increase in cases and this may lead to yet another set of restrictions in the new year. This will have the inevitable knock on effect on retailers, especially those who are unable to pivot or to offer an online service.

The second is the B word – Brexit. Whether or not a deal is finally wrought out of the seemingly interminable negotiations, the effect will either be bad or awful for Ireland, the rest of Europe and the UK. You can read many predictions and comment elsewhere on this very wicked problem. It’s very hard to see any positive outcome for this in 2021, though perhaps an end to the looming uncertainty will be one slight positive.

What next?

There will be acres of newsprint and its digital sisters devoted to reviewing this “year unlike any other” in the coming weeks. It’s definitely been a year that most of us are happy to say goodbye to. As to whether 2021 will be good, bad or ugly – well after this year, I’m socially distancing from the prediction business! But I am ever the optimist and the good is very good. The trick for retailers in 2021 is to do whatever it takes to survive and, at the same time, to look for the opportunities that the new normal will bring when Covid-19 is finally under control.

If you’d like to discuss your what next? for 2021 I’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me on or you can book a call with me to have a chat.

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