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Study Reveals 5 Trends Impacting Retail Sales

Retailers are slowly peeling back the layers of today’s consumer and uncovering what that shopper wants, but learning how to meet those needs has proved challenging for some.

According to a new report out by consumer financial services firm Synchrony Financial, there are five existing and emerging trends currently impacting retail.

Content marketing

Consumers don’t want to buy things anymore, they want to buy lifestyles and feelings, so brands are focusing their marketing efforts on the emotion tied to a brand experience. Forty percent of consumers surveyed said they like to shop at stores that reflect their values.

“This is an opportunity for retailers to attract new customers by reflecting the values that their shoppers believe in,” Synchrony said. “Some retailers do this by focusing on diversity, others by promoting their organically sourced materials. Either way, customers value retailers whose values reflect their own.”

Athleisure

The casual clothing trend that has taken workout wear out of the gym and into daily life has grown so popular that even the likes of Groupon has launched its own athleisure line.

According to a Piper Jaffray study, teens are buying more gear from brands like Lululemon and Athleta over classic denim.

Eighty percent of respondents in the Synchrony study say they’ve worn athleisure for activities other than working out, and of these, 69 percent say they wear athleisure instead of jeans at least once a week.

“Apparel retailers should consider investing in the new trend of customers wearing yoga pants to the studio and beyond,” the report noted. “Today’s consumer values comfort, along with movement and style.”

Instant delivery

Getting consumers their goods now has become commonplace for many retailers, spurred largely by Amazon’s two-day then next-day then same-day delivery evolution.

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Now retailers are looking to new offerings tied to convenience like in-home styling services and gourmet cooking kits, and using car services for immediate order deliveries.

“Many customers value convenience and instant gratification, and will pay to get it,” according to the report. “Retailers can think creatively to provide these services, or create new categories to provide instant gratification to their customers. Whether it’s an instant hair style, or same-day gourmet food, this category could be a winner for years to come.”

Affordable high-end fashion

Fast fashion’s takeover has meant more consumers have access to high fashion at a low, or lower, price.

Whether it’s designers making mass-market branch-offs from their core lines or big name fashion designers collaborating with mainstream stores (like H&M) on limited lines, affordable fashion has been a hit across income groups.

“Don’t assume that all affluent consumers shop in designer stores or that all bargain hunters buy discount items,” the report warned. “A fun shopping experience and designer clothing at bargain prices attract all shopping demographics.”

Rented/used apparel

The trend that started with designer handbags has moved over to apparel and more consumers are catching on.

Customers can now rent evening gowns for special occasions from the comfort of an app, have it delivered to their doorstep within a couple of days, and ship it back when they’re done—on the retailer’s dime—all for a much, much smaller fraction that it would have cost to buy the dress outright.

New apps like Style Lend let individual owners send in items they want to rent and the company will store the items and handle delivery and dry cleaning just like a tuxedo-rental place would.

“This trend is still a very new one for the retail sector, but the flow of venture capital funds to these new entities points to a new trend,” Synchrony noted. “Our June 2016 consumer survey shows that 24 percent of U.S. consumers have rented clothing, and an increasing number (34 percent) find the concept appealing.”

Further, according to the report, “Forward looking retailers can differentiate themselves by renting out their own designer outfits for a fee, or exploring borrowing arrangements, pooling together like-minded customers to share similar items or experiences.”