8 Retail Trends to Prepare For Now

2016 retail trends

Perhaps no industry is changing more rapidly than retail.

To help you keep up, I’ve gathered some 2016 retail trends and predictions from two recent retail studies. One is the “How We Shop Now” study and the second is a report by TOBE, presented at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show. The following retail trends will most likely affect your business in the year to come.

2016 Retail Trends to Watch

Rent, Don’t Buy

Taking a cue from the sharing economy and businesses such as Uber and Airbnb, 15 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in renting products from stores. The most popular products people wanted to rent are exercise equipment (17 percent), consumer electronics (15 percent) and furniture (11 percent).

The general idea is a subscription program that lets customers rent a certain amount (or an unlimited amount) of the items in question. Millennial consumers aged 25 to 34 are the most interested in this idea (35 percent). If you have merchandise that’s past its season, try renting it instead of putting it on clearance.

Class In Session

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of consumers are interested in going to classes or lessons at stores. U.S. shoppers are most interested in health or fitness classes (29 percent), cooking classes (27 percent) and learning from experts (20 percent). In addition, 17 percent are interested in clubs that meet at retail stores.

Teaching a class yourself or recruiting an employee or local expert to do so is a great way to attract new customers. Offer some type of discount for purchases made the day of the class to boost your sales. Or start a VIP club of your best customers and have monthly special events just for them. For instance, a clothing store could set aside one evening a month for its VIPs to come in and check out the new shipments.

Rich Rewards

Consumers in the survey are interested in loyalty programs — but with a twist: They’d like to be rewarded for making good life decisions. For example, 23 percent would like to get rewards for recycling, 23 percent would like to be rewarded for exercising and 11 percent would like to be rewarded for volunteering for charity. Depending on what you sell, there could be ways to implement this type of loyalty program in your store. For example, a quick-service restaurant could give customers loyalty points for putting cans and bottles and recycling bins or using fewer paper napkins. A sporting goods store could kill two birds with one stone by sponsoring a running club and giving customers rewards for every mile they run with the group.

Sensory Stimulation

In an increasingly screen-oriented world, consumers in the survey want to stimulate all five senses when they actually go out into a real store. Not surprisingly, vision and touch were rated as the most important senses in the store experience, but smell and sound matter, too. Differentiate your store from the online experience by focusing on appealing merchandising that encourages touching the products and background music that fits your brand.

Seeking Slouch

On a related note, stressed-out consumers are looking for relaxation wherever they can find it — even in retail stores. Think about how you can incorporate simplicity, serenity and calm into your store’s look, feel and design.

Sweet Memories

In today’s fleeting digital world, consumers are attracted to temporary retail experiences, such as pop-up shops or limited-edition product lines. At the same time, they also feel nostalgic about the pre-digital days, so retailers who can appeal to a retro sensibility in new ways will succeed.

Feel the Passion

Authenticity, purpose and social consciousness are all hot buttons for shoppers right now. Consumers want to spend their money with businesses that share their passions. Make sure your marketing clarifies your business mission, and if you’re involved with charitable or other socially responsible organizations, get your customers involved too.

Uniform Approach

As a reaction to the customization and personalization that’s currently dominating retail, uniformity will become increasingly popular. Streamlining your store down to a few well-curated items or putting all your sales clerks in uniform could be the wave of the future.

Pottery Class Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

2 Reactions
  1. I’ve seen a lot more offerings for classes and I think it’s a great idea. People get more of an experience (definitely appealing to the Millennial crowd) and I think it has more potential to create a lifelong client because you could be helping someone get hooked on a new hobby where they view your store as the expert.

  2. It’s amazing to see how you can now make money with what you know. Today, people are willing to pay just to learn. I am seeing lots of online experts giving classes for a fee. I think that you can even create a business just based on that.