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The Biggest Retail Predictions for 2021 From Top Execs at Saks, Aldo, Saucony + More

After all of the twists and turns 2020 has tossed everyone’s way, it’s no wonder retail executives from all corners of the fashion industry are anxiously anticipating the arrival of a new year. Here, FN rounds up the critical lessons from yesteryear and the big predictions for 2021 from executives at Aldo, Saucony, Saks Fifth Ave. and more.

Daianara Amalfitano, SVP of Aldo Group

What 2020 taught me: 2020 and the universal experience of this pandemic has taught me that oftentimes, we underestimate the simple gesture of a hug, spending time with family and friends and that those are moments and opportunities we can’t take for granted.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: The weight, burden and unpredictability of the pandemic in our daily lives and in the business.

My New Year’s resolution: Create buffers between Zoom meetings.  Finding the best way to work productively in a digital environment. Create new and healthier digital habits.

My 2021 mantra: There is power in being able to say “no.” 2020 has taught me to simplify and be intentional. Know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to and to stand your ground.

My big prediction for retail is: By now, most retail brands have some sort of handle on what works in this new reality we’ve been living in, but no one has a crystal ball for what the future holds because things will never go back to the “normal” we were used to. What we do know is that COVID has accelerated the digital revolution and we’ve seen six years of digital growth in just eight months. People and businesses alike are being more nimble. We’ve learned how to pivot quickly, and as we continue to head deeper into this new digital frontier, we’ll need to keep being innovative and agile.

How will fashion evolve and the industry be forced to adapt? What trends will dominate the conversation? The biggest trend is going to be the push and pull of occasion wear vs. casual wear. People are inevitably going to be spending a lot of time at home in, at least, the first half of the year, but when the world opens again I think people will have a renewed desire to dress up. This said, given what we’ve just experienced I also believe that there’s a new benchmark for easy wearable shoes.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be: We are already seeing a huge uptick in virtual shopping in 2020. There are a ton of new and exciting platforms and innovations debuting in the interactive, virtual space. I’m really excited to see how Aldo adapts and carves out a foothold in this space.

Taylor Shupe, FutureStitch CEO

What 2020 taught me: Embrace variability.

My New Year’s resolution: Personally, learn to DJ. Professionally: [I want to] own the supply chain: raw materials to DTC.

My 2021 mantra: Year of DAN i.e. “Deep and Narrow.”

My big prediction for retail is: “E-commerce growth and a slow return to brick-and-mortar normal (see China). Focus on zero-based inventory [such as] on-demand manufacturing; content/customization (see Nike); malls becoming professional destinations with more services, food, and entertainment.”

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be: It’s got to be livestream. Our Stance China business is seeing 100% growth via Taobao Live sales. While consumers are different, Western brands and influencers have taken notice and have begun to invest heavily into live engagement. The COVID environment should increase adoption.

Will Cooper, SVP/GMM of women’s shoes, handbags and accessories, Saks Fifth Avenue

What 2020 taught me: This year has taught me that strong teamwork and efficient communication are absolutely essential, especially in a remote work environment, in order to adapt swiftly to shifting customer needs and business trends.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: I would love to leave Zoom behind in 2020. It has definitely been a savior this year to keep us connected with our teams and vendors, but I think we are all Zoomed out and ready for in-person interactions — once it’s safe, of course!

My 2021 mantra: Listen to your customer, be flexible, and react quickly.

My big prediction for retail is: Customers will continue to seek the ease and convenience they’ve become accustomed to with online shopping. Simultaneously, we expect to see a strong return to the in-store shopping experience that many customers missed in 2020.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be: Customers will want to get dressed up again after a long year of staying at home. We keep hearing about how next year will be like the roaring twenties, and I really hope that’s the case. I think we’ll also see a boom in travel once it’s safe and Saks will be prepared to meet the needs of our customers as they start to get out in the world again.

Will Cooper Saks Fifth Avenue
Will Cooper
CREDIT: Courtesy Image

Peter Sachs, GM, Lowa

What 2020 taught me: 2020 taught me to take a step back and segment our business by employees, customers, inventory, operations, AR and so on. Then draw on past experiences about how to best deal with each challenge. This proved to be far easier than trying to think of COVID shutdowns and all of the ramifications as one big challenge.  I also learned that our customers really valued quality products and services that we have been delivering for many years and they rewarded us with their continued business.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: Work from home. I personally have an easy set up in the dining room, if need be, however I know that’s not the case for everyone. I think it’s really hard if you live in a smaller home or apartment and have your kids schooling from home and your spouse also working from home. Plus, I think there is a lot of synergy that happens when the staff is all working in the same building together that gets a bit diluted and lost in the WFH scenario.

My New Year’s resolution: Drink more water, get more sleep, read more books.

My 2021 mantra: We didn’t survive, we thrived and we can do it again.

My big prediction for retail is: Obviously the omnichannel shopping experience is here to stay and was accelerated in 2020. Dealers will need to step up their game to rebalance their sales experiences online, in brick and mortar and the combination with BOPIS and curbside. These things won’t just go away now that the customer has experienced them. Independent retailers can compete even with the biggest online players here by reinforcing to their customers local service along with the products they sell.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be? Outdoor will continue to be important for consumers. They will need to get out of the house and walk or run or ride a bike or take a hike or whatever form of fresh air and exercise works for them. 2021 will still be largely dominated by localized activities so we need to make sure we have product that reflects these activities. The more adventurous outdoor activities will come back once we can travel more safely. The blend of multi-functional outdoor & athletic will continue to be strong in 2021.

Anne Cavassa, President, Saucony

What 2020 taught me: That it is possible to be responsible for your team and the business during a financial crisis; how to run two races at a time [and stay] committed to finishing the marathon while also sprinting through the hurdles; [and] speak out, take action and create a better world.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: Furloughs [and] the perpetual Zoom meeting.

My New Year’s resolution: Take a road trip across the country to visit my family and run a marathon with my Saucony teammates.

My 2021 Mantra: Personal: Dream-chasing. Work: All Gas, No Breaks.

My big predication for retail: Experiential retail will win the day and the local shop will have a heart-warming renaissance.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be: We will see a movement toward celebrating in style. Consumers will want to be a bit more dressed up and will seek opportunities to celebrate, party and revel in joy.

Saucony Anne Cavassa
Saucony president Anne Cavassa, shot exclusively for FN.
CREDIT: Doug Levy

Ankur Amin, CEO, TGS Holdings (Parent company to Extra Butter)

What 2020 taught me: To keep faith and look for a silver lining.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: Arguments over politics.

My New Year’s resolution: Put more focus on health and family.

My 2021 mantra: The journey is the destination.

My big prediction for retail is: The return of NYC. 2020 has been a nightmare for businesses in the city but you can never bet against New York.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be? Experiential retail. Brick-and-mortar retail will need to be more disruptive. With shopping becoming more convenient, easier, faster, cheaper online, brick-and-mortar will need to deliver more than just products to bring people to the shops. I expect retailers to invest in taking retail to another level starting in 2021.

Extra Butter Ankur Amin Bernie Gross Lower East Side New York City
Ankur Amin (L) and Bernie Gross of Extra Butter, shot exclusively for FN during Lower East Side NYC store renovations.
CREDIT: Joshua Scott

Jane Hali, CEO, Jane Hali & Associates

What 2020 taught me: Stepping out of the comfort zone. As with our research, we also found ourselves participating in more outdoor activities and creative ways to stay positive.

One thing I want to leave in 2020: All negative feelings and thoughts. 

My New Year’s resolution: I wouldn’t say it’s a New Year’s resolution, but to continue evolving as a person and as a firm.

My 2021 mantra: Keep swimming.

My big prediction for retail is: Outdoor lifestyle, wellness and casualwear will continue to dominate. Digital will continue to be key for all retailers.

The biggest trend in fashion/retail in 2021 will be: Conscious shopping and resale. We are expecting conscious shopping to be key in luxury. 

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