The build-up to the last three weeks of December seems to last forever and then all of a sudden, it’s over.  January hits and the cycle starts anew with the same question: “What’s going to happen this year?”

Over the next few weeks, we will highlight the most-frequently mentioned retail and consumer trends for 2016 and offer tips on how you can make these trends work for you.

Timetrade surveyed 5,444 consumers with in-depth questions regarding their perceptions and behaviors regarding retail shopping.  Here’s the good news:

  • 72% plan to shop and buy in stores as much as they did last year and 18% expect to shop MORE in stores than last year.
  • 71% will buy a product in the store (an increase of 6% from last year’s survey).
  • Younger generations actually ranked shopping in a store HIGHER than baby boomers.

According to the survey results, 85% of consumers prefer to shop in stores because they want to touch and feel the products before making a final decision. Once the customer is in your store, what are the factors that get a consumer to actually buy in the store rather than just looking at the products and then finding the cheapest price online?

In all of the many articles and reports on 2016 trends that I researched and read about, it all comes down to the fact that customer experience is king. Consider the ways you can utilize a positive customer experience to deliver prompt service, convenience, personalized experience and trust in your company.

Below are 9 ideas from PSFK, a multi-media company in New York, NY that follows and reports on trends, who released a Future of Retail 2016: Designing the New Shopper Experience summary report. Here are some suggestions on how you can deliver the positive in-store customer experience:

Create confidence: Provide shoppers with the tools and advice they need to choose the best options for their wants and needs.

Eliminate obstacles: Use technology to speed up the path to purchase.

Recognize and personalize: Use systems that can record customers purchasing history and preference

Promote transparency: Be open with customers about your products and services as well as how you use their personal information.

Partner: Collaborate with like-minded companies.

Optimize ownership: Build a support network for customers on products and their use so customers feel part of your business and will refer back to you for information and future purchases.

Cultivate community: Plan events and special shopping opportunities for customers to come together.

Encourage advocacy: Tap into your customers’ knowledge and feedback (reviews by customers can often be the deciding factor in where consumers shop).

Deliver delight: Provide something unexpected and fun.

Can we, in the specialty business cater to the 2016 customer better than big box/big corporate retailers?  You bet we can!  But it means examining our businesses honestly and making changes that fit what customers today want.

The good news for 2016 is that there are plenty of consumers that want to shop in a store.   What gets them to your store, buying and coming back? Offer a unique, positive and truly delightful experience through personal and genuine human interaction.  That’s something no one can get on the internet.


Sue Warfield is the Director of Member Relations at ASTRA. With more than 30 years of experience in the retail and toy business, Sue offers insight into industry trends and tips and works to connect the retailers, sales representatives, manufacturers and affiliates in the specialty toy retailing arena.
 Contact Sue at