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What can you learn from the 2021 retail statistics?

Yes, the Pandemic Affected Sales. But There Are Also Some Surprises in the 2021 Retail Statistics. 

The 2021 retail statistics just came out, and believe it or not, it isn’t all bad news.

While 2020 was a year marked by worldwide pandemic lockdowns, store closures and massive declines in consumer spending, that’s only part of the story.

According to “Retail Statistics, Trends & Forecasts for 2021,” recently published by Olvin (you can read the entire report here), there is continued hope for the retail sector. Compared to the rest of the world, the US is pretty optimistic about the recovery of the economy.

Holiday sales rose by 8.3% in spite of the pandemic, and more holiday purchases were made online than ever before. In fact, this increase in sales has led many retailers to change their plans for future store closures.

The pandemic has had positive and negative effects on retail sales.

2021 Retail Statistics

Here are some actual numbers from the report:

5,575 stores closed permanently across the US in 2020, with the loss of 168,158 jobs. And those weren’t just small retailers—JC Penny, J Crew, Aldo, Gap and Walgreens each closed a minimum of 200 stores.

However, this can’t all be blamed on the pandemic. In 2019, there were 9,994 store closures, and in 2018, there were 7,191 (both worse than in 2020).

So what’s really going on? According to the National Retail Foundation, the retail industry is undergoing a transformation, and it isn’t just a shift from in-store to online sales:

  • Retail sales have grown by almost 4% annually since 2010
  • For every company that is closing stores, 5.2 are opening them
  • Retailers contribute $2.6 trillion annually to the US GDP
  • Total retail sales are expected to rise to $5.94 trillion by 2024
  • New store openings increase traffic to retail websites by an average of 37%, indicating that stores will continue to be an integral part of retailers’ long-term strategy

Omnichannel Retail

Another important trend forecast for 2021 is the rise of omnichannel retail. That’s where stores serve customers through every possible channel—brick-and-mortar stores, their website, mobile websites, social media channels, and via marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Some omnichannel statistics:

  • Companies with omnichannel engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies that don’t
  • 72% of digital shoppers consider in-store to be the most important channel when making a purchase
  • 71% of shoppers say their smartphone is vital for their in-store experience
  • Customers that buy from a business both online and in-store have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who only shop via one channel
Retail isn't just shifting from in-store to online.

The Future of Retail

2.14 billion people are expected to make online purchases this year, and worldwide, eCommerce sales are expected to exceed $6.54 billion by 2022.

By 2040, 95% of all retail purchases will likely be online, and borders between countries are rarely a barrier to buying from a business. Already, two thirds of businesses that sell online also sell internationally.

There’s even more information in the full report published by Olvin. A little context—Olvin is a business intelligence company that uses machine learning and AI to help brick-and-mortar retailers and marketers make better decisions and level the playing field when competing with eCommerce.

You can learn more about Olvin here.


Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions. Before starting his business, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.

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