As another year comes to a close it becomes startlingly evident that we are just one year shy of 2020. But wait, wasn’t it just 1999? The anticipation of a new decade, even if a year away, will put a lot of pressure on 2019 to move forward, especially when it comes to technology. After all, when it was 1999 a ton of effort was put against Y2K in order to avoid a computer crashing nightmare. While the expectation of 2020 is not the same as entering the 2000’s, there is still an anticipation of change – 2019 will be the bridge to awaited transformations, especially for retail.

In 2019, building effective strategies will be the key that ultimately leads to a prosperous 2020. Six key areas of focus will be distribution, partnerships, transparency, outspokenness, wellness, and algorithms. And while these strategies cross various industries, they play a clear role within the apparel market.

Marketers have the opportunity to reach customers on so many different platforms, making it essential to determine where to focus distribution.  Whether direct-to-consumer (DTC), private label, or potentially a combination of both, this is a critical step in maximizing growth at a time when products are blurring the lines for the consumer. This is especially true within apparel as both DTC and private label players have upped their game. 

In terms of distribution, sometimes the best strategies come from unlikely partnerships, as seen with the pop-up collaboration between The Market @Macy’s and Facebook. These are unique, and at times, more affordable ways for emerging brands to reach new consumers and build awareness. Brands are learning how important it is to build relationships outside of their core consumer. Everlane, which frequently showcases their ethical factories, has been effectively using their transparency strategy to appeal to their consumers. They are on point with this approach – since apparel shoppers told NPD that human rights and fair wages was a top social concern across ages. Brands like Allbirds take a slightly different approach, using outspokenness to address environmental causes.  Who would have thought shoes could be made of eucalyptus?     

At the end of the day, we want to live our best life. This is why the wellness strategy will live on in 2019 and beyond. Technology, however, will take this a notch up. Health, backed by data, is becoming more attainable, and incorporates hard science for a personal touch; just think about the DNA testing kits offered this holiday at reduced pricing. Apparel will continue to expand on this trend with advancements in smart fabrics and wearable technology, especially as the line between activewear and fashion continues to blur. While on the topic of technology, algorithms will become one of retails most powerful tools in understanding what will resonate best with consumers. This thinking will go a long way for the future of merchandising and outfit paring. 

These are the topics that will be top of mind for NPD as we kick off 2019. It will be the year to position retail, in particular apparel, for success heading into a new decade. 

Until then, Happy New Year and let’s party like it’s 1999!