The Commerce Department reported that retail sales fell in December 1.9 percent from November, but overall total sales for the quarter were up 17.1 percent from a year earlier, and December sales rose 16.9 percent from 2020. Retail foot traffic in the United States between Nov. 21 and Jan. 1 was down 19.5 percent compared with 2019, according to Sensormatic Solutions, as less people shopped in stores this holiday season, possibly driven by staffing shortages and Omicron that hit hard in December. In other reporting news, CNBC highlighted that the New York Federal Reserve debuted a new metric called the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index, which showed that supply chain issues may have reached its peak, possibly sending relief to inflation concerns.
January also brought about the largest retail industry event - the NRF Big Show. Held in person in New York, despite the increase in COVID cases, the show went on as planned and was predicted to attract more than 15,000 attendees. Big themes from the conference included a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of retailers and practical advice on sustainability efforts driven by eco-conscious consumers and investors, but with a warning to make sure change is legitimate and not just greenwashing. Other themes featured included a return to the physical store, omnichannel and showing empathy in customer service.
Vogue Business published an in-depth report on bracketing - over-ordering online to get the right size and style - and its impact on fulfillment and retailers' bottom line. Bracketing increases the number of items going back to the fulfillment center; the backward flow reduces capacity to hold other inventory. Approximately 15 percent of returned online purchases from multi-brand retailers were attributed to bracketing, according to Truefit.
Lastly, NRF has a positive report on new retail store openings in 2021 as major U.S.-headquartered retailers announced more than 8,100 new store openings, which is double the number of closing announcements, which totaled roughly 3,950.
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