Retail is Making a Glorious Comeback in 2021
Import-based retail forecasts for 2021 look promising: The expected slowdown in retail sales after the holidays was missing in 2021, and the National Retail Federation is predicting record retail sales this year. Imports are continuously growing, with retailers preparing to meet the demand as the country reopens.
The Covid-19 pandemic turned shopping into a predominantly online experience, which was bad news for brick-and-mortar stores, but good news for retail overall. The initial prognosis was grim, with over 8,300 US stores closed in 2020 and 400 stores announced to close in 2021. Another 10,000 physical retailers are predicted to go belly up by the end of 2021.
However, the import reports and estimates from the NRF’s Global Port Tracker tell a different story.
The first month of 2021 was the busiest January since 2002 in terms of retail imports. Furthermore, February and March forecasts anticipate increases by a quarter and nearly a half of 2020 imports, respectively. To boot, Chinese New Year last year didn’t bring the usual Asian factory closure during the holidays, either. Instead, ships arriving at US ports struggled with an unexpected backlog of unloaded goods. All in all, the reports from the NRF are very encouraging.
Ben Hackett, the founder of the consulting firm helping the NRF establish these predictions, places his faith in vaccine rollout. Vaccinations are already helping the dwindling retail stores, with customers going back to purchasing non-essential products, such as apparel, from physical locations. While this is encouraging, it could also go sideways: Vaccinations could shift spending trends back from hard goods to services.
“The successful distribution of vaccines will help ensure that the economic recovery will likely be strong and sustainable,” Hackett said on the topic.
Still, all signs indicate that the retail industry will recover. Where that recovery will go is anyone’s guess, however, as major changes are apparently imminent, with initial steps already taken by some big names.