By the Numbers: What’s Next for 2020?



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COVID-19 has had a clear effect on retail, accelerating trends that expected to take years to saturate the market in just a few months. As a result, customer habits have never been so dynamic. As we enter the school year and customer needs change yet again, who will be the big winners under the first fall and holiday season under a pandemic?

Leisure and Learning

With many Canadians working from home, boredom busters are still at an all-time high. Not only are they picking up new hobbies for themselves, consumers are also responsible for keeping their kids entertained. Furthermore, some parents have assumed the role of teacher for their children if they elected to keep them home, so any educational products, school supplies, and even electronics that facilitate at-home learning will also see an increase. As consumers remain wary of gyms, affordable home fitness products such as weights, yoga mats, or sports equipment will also be in high demand.

By the numbers: June saw a 19% increase year-over-year in Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book and Music Stores, which we expect to continue through to September. The category also saw an all-time high in dollars spent in the category for June. Electronics and Appliance Stores, on the other hand, is a much more volatile category, growing 8% in June. This category will likely see more gains closer to September, as good weather and no school would not have driven major growth until now. However, June still saw a 50% increase in specifically sporting goods sales year-over-year, and a 14% increase in arts and leisure supplies.

Home Sweet Home

Similarly, the fact that Canadians are spending more time at home has driven growth in home categories. Increased safety outside, reduced out-of-home travel, and no dine-in restaurant options all contribute to a surge in backyard hosting. As a result, homes are being decked out to the nines with outdoor and kitchen upgrades. Once cooler weather sets in, we expect to see fireplaces, outdoor heating, and seasonal decorations will also see a surge in growth. While we have likely passed the point where consumers are establishing and decorating their new home offices, spaces for children to do schoolwork undisturbed and indoor activities as the weather gets cooler, will keep these categories ramped up.

By the numbers: As mentioned above, we have likely already passed the point in June where customers were creating home office spaces, but we know from retailer reports that later months will see spikes in these categories. In fact, Statistics Canada reported a 2% increase year-over-year in June for indoor furniture, but a 71% increase in outdoor furniture. Home and garden equipment sales saw a 17% increase.

Holiday Hurries

While many things will never be the same, it can be certain that holiday shopping will be vastly different this year. Store capacities, queues in winter weather, and the risk of a second wave will dramatically impede holiday shopping in physical stores, but all shopping channels may be affected by stocking issues. This may drive customers to shop for their holiday gifts early, especially since Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have already been on the rise. In addition, Amazon’s Prime Day is rumoured to be taking place in October, which would drive early holiday shopping for new Prime members but would also drive other retailers to hold their own “Prime Day” sales during the same week to compete. Together, these factors may have a marked effect on how money is spent over the whole of Q4 2020.

By the numbers: While it is definitely too early to see any tangible effects of this prediction, particularly since Statistics Canada is still reporting for June, we know from retailer reports that winter and holiday products are already being bought up. For example, Walmart Canada has remarked that products such as skates and toboggans are already being bought up. Mountain Equipment Co-op saw similar patterns. June is still too early for Statistics Canada to report winter goods, so it remains to be seen how much an effect these early purchases will have this season.

Final Word

Statistics Canada will release their July numbers this Friday. Will they be in line with our predictions? What products have you been buying a lot of? Connect with us to chat!

Twitter – @JCWilliamsGroup
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LinkedIn – J.C. Williams Group

4 Focus Areas for Post-Pandemic Retail



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Never let a good crisis go to waste”

– Winston Churchill

At a time where everything seems to be bad news for retail, it is important, just like in all aspects of life, to balance the negative with some positive. In today’s blog, we will discuss four key areas where retail innovation is moving the fastest from all over the world. These examples are a snippet from JCWG’s RetailWATCH Shopping Revolution, adapted from a piece that contributed to a global overview project hosted by our partners at the Ebeltoft Group.

Every country has its own unique factors that will influence recovery, which is exactly why looking beyond borders is a great source of inspiration. Our first example comes from here in Canada. Toronto-based tech company BIG Digital has developed the technology for a smart display that also acts as a customer counter.

Technology such as this can have a major impact on customer attitude while queuing. Having clear signage can reduce frustration and keep abandoned trips and abandoned carts to a minimum. We expect to see a lot of innovation in this previously uncharted territory, including low-capital solutions such as a simple livestream of the queue on the retailer’s app or website.

As retail space usage changes, innovations such as this virtual showroom at King Living Australia will become more prevalent. The showroom/virtual showroom model is a more effective use of space, with opportunities to further integrate omnichannel, improved safety procedures, and avoid post-shutdown pitfalls such as understocked shelves, something that customers do not want to remember from pre-shutdown panic buying.

This idea can also be extended to virtual consultations, such as the ones now offered by Mecca, also in Australia. Virtual appointments skip the queue and keep customers confident in their safety and the brand top of mind.

Our third trend addresses tooling. Customers are more aware of physical touchpoints than ever before, and in order to keep them visiting physical locations, retail equipment essentials must change to adapt. For example, elevator food pedals and UV sterilizing escalator handrails can free up employee time to focus on customers. Suitsupply from Canada plans on utilizing glass shields to protect customers and tailors while maintaining the level of service it is known for.

Finally, the last trend that has seen a surge in adoption is click-and-collect. This is popular for obvious reasons, but it also serves well as a catalyst to jumpstart a retailer’s online presence. Many retailers have been experimenting with this model, such as offering drive-thru pickup or trunk pickup, or by partnering with Amazon’s new program Amazon Counter; Amazon packages can be picked up at the partner retailer’s bricks-and-mortar store, driving customer traffic. As hyper-local delivery becomes the norm, we expect to see lots of growth in same day delivery services.

For more information on our RetailWATCH program and to receive the Shopping Revolution, please contact Lisa Hutcheson at

3 Canadian Companies Taking Responsibility



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At a time where single-use gloves, masks, wipes, and bags are at a record high, it’s time to step back and review the other important responsibilities: responsibility to our planet, and responsibility to our communities. Here are 3 Canadian companies doing it right.


The Hill family started Aritzia inside their 70-year-old department store in Vancouver. When Brian Hill opened the first standalone boutique in 1984, the idea was simple: offer beautiful clothes in aspirational spaces with exceptional service.

In 2017, they conducted a more comprehensive assessment of their business to benchmark their social and environmental risks and impacts. This analysis included three areas:

  • A materiality assessment of their operations, including supply chain partners.      
  • A labour and human rights assessment of their global supply chain.
  • An Environmental Organizational Lifecycle Assessment (OLCA) for emissions, water use and waste generation.

Since then, Aritzia has improved its practices in their products and operations, as well as continuing to grow its giving program through donations.

Most recently, they’ve eliminated all plastic from online sales, reduced water and chemical use by sourcing organic denim, and pledged to avoid sending ships through at-risk habitats of the Arctic.

Aritzia monitors its operations under the UN’s Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. Most recently, they partnered with the ILO-IFC Better Work Program, which supports labour rights and decent working conditions at all of its facilities.

It also monitors its environmental impact using the Higg Facility Environmental Module, which evaluates energy management, water, effluent, chemicals, energy, emissions, and waste.

J. C. Williams Group Expert Comment

Instead of providing obfuscated and unsupported language about environmental and social impacts, Aritzia has chosen to partner with globally recognized standards wherever possible, granting a huge amount of credibility. Their goal to create quality product that endures well beyond one or two seasons sets them apart within the high-impact clothing industry.


A pioneer in online shopping, Clearly launched its first site in 2000 selling contact lenses. Within a few years, they began offering a curated selection of designer glasses and sunglasses as well — driven by a passion to bring prescription eyewear to people who often found it out of reach.

Clearly has joined forces with the Essilor Vision Foundation to help bring improved sight to millions through their Buy One, Give One initiative: for every pair of glasses bought, they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need.

To help manage the challenge of ordering glasses online, Clearly has remained on top of emerging technologies, first with the MyFit questionnaire, which takes the measurements of your current pair of glasses to help fit you for new ones, and more recently, the ability to “try” glasses on virtually: the website accesses your laptop or mobile device camera and adds the selected glasses on your face as a special effect.

Clearly was named one of Canada’s Best Workplaces for its commitment to a welcome and inclusive culture where employees can feel heard. This was awarded to them by Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace cultures.

In 2020, Clearly donated its advertising budget to Reclaim the Block, an organization dedicated to racial justice. The company also shared a number of links to related organizations and encouraged its customers to donate as well.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, Clearly donated 1,000 safety glasses to the Vancouver Coastal Health network, and later donated 60,000 face shields to the Canadian Federal Government.

J. C. Williams Group Expert Comment

Clearly streamlines the process of purchasing glasses. Purchasing glasses from a physical store requires multiple trips (at least one to pick glasses out, and one to pick them up once they are ready). With Clearly, there is only one step to purchasing, and when your purchase means a pair for someone in need (at no cost to you), buying glasses online is a no brainer.

Canadian Tire

The Hilles brothers started Canadian Tire as a tire company in Toronto, 1922. They introduced an innovation that delighted generations of Toronto shoppers: clerks on roller skates who raced to fill orders.

Since then, Canadian Tire has expanded its assortment and spread to 1,700 retail locations across Canada and has become a staple in the Canadian retail landscape.

In 2003, Canadian Tire introduced the now widespread store layout, which groups products by categories; Driving, Playing, Living, and Fixing, so even entering a new location feels familiar and welcoming.

In 1999, the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families (now Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities) was launched to provide help to families in need. It has donated more than $28 million. In 2005 when it became Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, it shifted its focus to help kids in financial need participate in sports and recreation. 2015 marked the one millionth kid helped by this program. In 2017, Canadian Tire committed $50 million over five years to help Canadian children with disabilities access sport and play.

Canadian Tire has set a goal to reduce emissions by 22% by 2022. Here are initiatives included in reaching that goal:

  • In 2017, Canadian Tire partnered with Canadian Pacific Railway to develop North America’s first 60-foot intermodal carrier.
  • Monitoring packaging using the Structural Packaging Test, which reduces the amount of packaging needed to minimize damage.
  • In 2017, Canadian Tire initialized a program to retrofit its stores with LED lighting, which should reduce each store’s current lighting usage of 30%-50%
  • Their Bolton Distribution Centre was awarded the LEED Gold certification, which recognizes sustainable building. In particular, this location includes a remediation and storm water management system and drought tolerant landscaping.

Donated $5 million to Canada’s frontline workers, $1M to Canadian Red Cross, $1M to United Way Centraide Canada, and $3M in personal protective equipment.

Associate Dealers under the Canadian Tire banner have donated 160,000 masks, 164,000 pairs of gloves, and 20,000 litres of hand sanitizer to local hospitals and nursing homes in need.

Sales of the N95 and ASTM certified masks were halted so the product could be redirected to frontline healthcare workers.

J. C. Williams Group Expert Comment

The individual stores are encouraged to act as community beacons, lending their space and position in town centres for services such as motorboat and fishing license kiosks or welcoming volunteers of the Red Cross to collect donations at the doors. The company’s branding, private labels, and community programs all speak to a Canadian-only experience. The Canadian consumer can feel like an afterthought to brands that arrive from outside the country, so Canadian Tire has applied its branding appropriately to emphasize Canadian lifestyles. A trip to Canadian Tire is an experience passed on through generations.

More than Just Convenience



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The world is changing, and retail along with it. Convenience models such as online shopping, click-and-collect, and curbside pickup are no longer optional and no longer solely about convenience. These models previously focused on removing friction between the purchase and the product, but 2020 has introduced a new source of friction: human contact.

Starship Technologies Will Launch Thousands of Food Delivery ...

How A Tiny Delivery Robot Represents the Future of Retail

As more and more retail is pushed online, keeping stores stocked and deliveries made in timely manners is increasingly difficult. For example, some reports indicate that customers are waiting up-to two weeks for online grocery orders to be delivered during this challenging time. Moreover, the element of human contact with deliveries has added another challenge for many businesses.  Enter Starship Technologies, developer of autonomous delivery robots. Not only do these robots sidestep exposure risks with face-to-face delivery, they fulfill the need for hyperlocal delivery to connect bricks-and-mortar stores that are otherwise closed along with their local communities.

As seen on the blog earlier this year, and featured in our 2020 edition of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations eBook, these robots may just be one of the solutions to supporting businesses with reaching their customers.  

Here is an overview of how this little delivery robot is changing the “face” of delivery:

  • Parcels, groceries, and food are delivered directly from stores at the time that the customer requests it via a mobile app.
  • Once ordered, the robot’s entire journey and location can be monitored on a smartphone.
  • Once the robot arrives at the scheduled destination, the recipient will be able to unlock the robot via the app.
  • The robot then travels toward the next delivery.

Here is a user video of the robot in use on video-sharing platform TikTok. Starship robots are frequent stars on the platform, a testament to consumer approval.

Starship Technologies is one of the concepts featured in our new book Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020, developed in partnership with Ebeltoft Group. To read about more concepts to spark your creativity, download your free copy of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 HERE.

2020 Global Retail Trends & Innovations Blog Series: Trend #2 Extreme Convenience



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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Global Retail Trends and Innovations blog series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Global Retail Trends and Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the next few months, we will explore the hot four trends (Omni Integration, Extreme Convenience, Extreme Experience, and Sustainable Practices) showcased in Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #2: Extreme Convenience

The modern consumer is busy, and the era of seamless, frictionless retailing is here. Friction is every barrier we put in place to prevent customers from buying a product. Retailers are removing friction from the experience by adding elements of technology, subscriptions, delivery, and pick-up, while also streamlining the key elements of everyday operations.

This trend focuses on seamless retail, friction-removing technology, eliminating pain points, and on-demand.

Bingobox, China

Bingobox takes the concept of a traditional convenience store a step further by making it unstaffed. Bingobox was the first company in China to pioneer the trend of unstaffed stores when it first opened in Shanghai two years ago. The stores are equipped with diverse technologies, e.g., QR codes, RFID chips, surveillance cameras, and automatic payments. These technologies allow Bingobox to utilize data analytics and stock its stores with goods preferred by consumers to maximize sales. Such a move has benefited the company, allowing it to set up stores in areas with low foot traffic and take a shorter amount of time to break even for new stores. A crew of four is able to maintain 40 Bingobox stores.

With these technologies, Bingobox is able to deter shoplifting and improve the shopping experience for consumers. With the accuracy of its image recognition software being 99%, it can detect customers’ behavior in the store and present a customizable promotional message to assist them in making a decision.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Bingobox allows for increased access to products in areas where it might otherwise be too costly to set up a physical store or operate 24 hours a day. Now, companies have an extra option to consider when distributing their products.

Its box-shaped stores also can be quickly deployed to new locations.

Starship Technologies, Canada/U.S.A.

Move over drones, Starship Technologies is transforming deliveries with autonomous robots. These small and nimble robots are designed to deliver food, groceries, and packages locally. The robot can travel anywhere a pedestrian can walk, but mainly on sidewalks, including curbs. With a combination of mobile technology and partnerships with stores and restaurants, the robots make local delivery faster, smarter, and more cost-efficient. The robots can carry items within a four-mile radius.

How it works:

  • Parcels, groceries, and food are delivered directly from stores at the time that the customer requests it via a mobile app.
  • Once ordered, the robot’s entire journey and location can be monitored on a smartphone.
  • Once the robot arrives at the scheduled destination, the recipient will be able to unlock the robot via the app.
  • The robot then travels toward the next delivery.

The six-wheeled robot weighs around 40-45 lbs. and uses a sensor suite for navigation and situational awareness. The GPS- and CV-based navigation uses proprietary maps and allows for 1-inch navigation precision. They also can operate in the rain and snow.

The robot can deliver anything that can fit inside its delivery container, such as parcels, groceries, food, laundry, medication, flowers, etc.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

These electrically powered robots are safe and green and can help reduce traffic congestion and pollution by removing cars/trucks from the last mile of the delivery process.

As retailers continue to struggle with the last mile of the delivery journey, these robots can deliver within a four-mile radius at a significantly lower cost than current delivery services. Starship’s system is simple and adaptable to any category.

Kroger, USA

In 2019, Kroger rolled out its self-driving car program, where customers can order groceries online to be delivered to the home in a vehicle without a driver. The delivery service was conceived by the robotics company Nuro, founded by two former Google employees. Kroger and Nuro began working together last year for a trial run in Scottsdale, Arizona, before they started this year’s expansion.

Kroger has reportedly completed thousands of driverless deliveries within the Arizona market. The company aims to roll out its self-driving R1 delivery vehicles in Texas within the next few weeks; meanwhile, it will use a Toyota Prius fleet.

Enabling the purchase of groceries online to be delivered via driverless car is a great example of using technology to remove barriers to consumers and allow for a more convenient and seamless experience.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Kroger is taking big strides to keep up with online competitors with their driverless car delivery program. Using unstaffed vehicles is cost effective, as vehicles that do not carry human passengers can omit airbags, seatbelts, and other costly safety equipment, since the only passengers are food and grocery. Such cost savings will then trickle down to the consumer, resulting in a speedy, cost-effective way to get groceries from the comfort of home.

J. C. Williams Group Final Word

This is just a small selection of case studies featured in 2020 Retail Trends and Innovation Publication, but it can already be seen that extreme convenience is crucial for brands of the future. Leveraging technology, subscription services, and a variety of delivery options are removing barriers for a seamless customer journey, which has never been more important than it is now.

To read about more Extreme Convenience concepts, download your free copy of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 HERE.

2020 Global Retail Trends & Innovations – Coming soon!



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J. C. Williams Group is proud to announce our new book in collaboration with the Ebeltoft Group: 2020 Global Retail Trends & Innovations! This new edition will be arriving soon, but here is a teaser of the great content to come.

Retail is Ever-changing

The future landscape of global retail

Stores have become more relevant than ever, as consumers seek
and crave experiences to share. At the same time, retail has never
gone through greater transformation. We have noticed a major shift
in consumer behavior and values driven by technology and new,
innovative industry players, who constantly disrupt and drive consumer
expectations upward. The notable younger generations – Millennials
and Generation Z – who grew up alongside digital transformation, are
paving the way for brand new shopping behaviors and values. Online is
no longer a separate entity, but an expectation and counterpart to other
shopping channels. Technology has reached a new level of innovation
and is the ground for ultra-personalized shopping experiences, where
new disruptive waves are changing the game.

Change is here. Retailers must adapt and accept it. The moment for
innovation is now.

Trends to Watch in 2020

Ebeltoft Group has been monitoring brand and store innovations
for more than a decade, uncovering trends both underlying and
emerging in modern retail. Our retail experts around the world join
forces to share insights from their local markets that will inspire
your ideas to innovate and future-proof your business. We have
evaluated more than 40 innovative cases from more than 18
countries, revealing four different retail trends to create a detailed
big picture of what’s to come

Award-winning Innovation Case

NIKE House of Innovation, U. S. A.

Nike NYC is designed to be a dynamic store environment, as personal and responsive as it is digital. The premium destination offers an authentic, immersive, human connection to the Nike brand.

Nike NYC engages consumers with best-in-class digital and physical services combined with premium products, experiences, and features, to create a new benchmark for Nike retail. Powered by digital commerce data and inspired by Nike’s newest retail concept, Nike Live, the ground floor features the new Nike Speed Shop, offering on-the-go access to products local members know and love. Consumers can shop these uniquely curated NYC favorites alongside seasonal picks, visit the Nike Sneaker Bar for easy access to Nike’s biggest power franchise footwear, or reserve items via the Nike app and pick them up in the Speed Shop digital lockers.

Nike NYC
  • Fitting into the future.
    • Creating a great in-store experience for customers has been a recurring trend, however, ways of creating this experience change over time. Nike NYC does a great job of fitting into the newest elements of this trend.
  • Reimagined experience.
    • The store’s large size, unique features, and elaborate displays feed into the creation of this engaging in-store experience for consumers and help build ties to the brand.
  • The sum of its parts.
    • The store’s integration of digital and physical experiences through its use of data and integration of Nike’s app into the store experience is a great example of omni integration.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Nike’s new flagship store, Nike NYC, is uniquely digital, personal, and responsive. The store creates an engaging destination that helps consumers build a unique connection to the Nike brand.

Nike NYC offers a variety of unique features. The store uses digital commerce data and offers onthe-go access to products curated for NYC locals. Customers also can reserve items with the Nike app and pick them up in Speed Shop digital lockers. This makes great use of connecting the digital and physical experiences.

Please click HERE to download your free copy of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 now!

Eataly vs Time Out Market: Similar Models with Different Implications



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A month after Eataly’s grand opening in Toronto, and Time Out Market’s new location in Montreal, its time to take a look at these food hall-esque attractions. Both models are sized close to a large grocery store but are modeled more as a community hub. So just what makes them work?

Eataly – Ambassador of Italian Culture

Through our global partner Ebeltoft and through our own travel, JCWG has had the opportunity to visit many Eatalys across the globe. Eataly is tied to a mission of sharing Italian food and culture, and this defines a number of key differences between it and Time Out Market. Eataly tends to make its home in culturally significant locations, using its power as a destination to draw from a huge area, even outside the city it is located in. For example, the new Eataly in Toronto will give the nearby McEwans a run for its money, but McEwans can grow if it can focus on promoting its convenience factor. In fact, both Eataly and Time Out Market act as special attractions; visiting one warrants slightly looser pockets as shoppers pay a premium not only for their products but for the emotional experience. Eataly locations are heavily curated, and weaves together its offerings in a way that keeps the experience integrated in a way that is only possible when there are no individual operators. Seating is tied to specific areas and products, variable in their style and layout so that a café area feels like a café, and a bakery feels like a bakery, again tying in this idea of an Italian marketplace.

Time Out Market – Ambassador of Local Culture

Originally a social commentary magazine, Time Out opened the first Time Out Market in 2014. Time Out Markets aim to bring the best of each city that it is located under one roof, acting as a destination for both tourists looking to experience the city and locals who are looking for something familiar. Unlike Eataly locations, Time Out Markets tend to be located in more generic real estate, taking advantage of small store frontage but large square footage to animate real estate that normally wouldn’t work out for a different sort of tenant. Their fundamental effect is to democratise fine dining. Small or family run businesses that are the heart of their neighbourhood simply don’t have the capital to open a new or bigger location, but Time Out Market provides that platform for them. On the other hand, brands that do have the capital can still open a location in the Market for less, further equalizing operators. This idea of socialized or democratized eating points directly to Time Out Market’s original roots in radical social commentary.

The Same but Different

While both concepts are similar, they are very telling examples about what is important in retail – and food – today. While the focus is common to both on food, it’s the community entrenchment that establishes them as destinations worth visiting.

So, are they worth visiting? When comparing the turnout for Eataly Toronto, where there were line ups out the door, to Time Out Market Montreal, there’s a very distinct difference. And ultimately this difference comes from the contrast in their models. Eataly is a known entity across the world, not just as a brand but as a format. Most Eataly locations are very similar, they have a proven concept. Visiting a new Eataly is both a new experience and something that feels very familiar, not to mention that their locations tend to already include Italian populations or populations already familiar with Italian culture. Time Out Markets, on the other hand, face a distinct hurdle: they are telling the community what they think is “best.” They need to build up that relationship of trust with the local community, and to do that they need strong, established standards, which is where Eataly is strongest. Eataly’s carefully curated assortment and internally managed auditing means that from turnkey that trust is already there. Time Out Market, and indeed any format that includes local influence needs those quality assurance systems in place.

JCWG is currently researching quality and audit systems which reduces the risk of implementing smaller local vendors into larger developments. More to come.

Eataly Toronto – Another Home Run for Retail Experience



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After years of planning and months of anticipation, the new Eataly Toronto opened to much fanfare on Wednesday, November 13th and J.C. Williams Group was there for all the sampling and excitement at the pre-opening. If you are not able to be in Toronto or you can’t get in the store because of the crowds, read on. We bring you lots of pictures and our commentary.

First some facts. This Eataly is in a 50,000+ square foot space on Toronto’s Mink Mile aka Bloor Street.  The three-storey space includes 4 service restaurants, 9 service counters, 650 seats and 13 ventilation hoods as well as an expansive, dynamic grocery area and La Scuola di Eataly cooking school. Coming in the new year will be a full service, upscale Milanese trattoria.

Our take – This Eataly does not disappoint. All of the hallmarks that make Eataly a huge success around the world are here. The wonderful products from Italy combined with the best of local fresh foods all hitting on the current hot buttons in food – sustainability, local, cruelty free and good for the environment all wrapped in an exciting presentation package. The food service areas overlook the corner of Bloor and Bay Street making for the bonus of great people-watching along with all the yummy food. Quite simply a home run!

Great location visibility for three areas of WOW

Colour and great presentation

Onsite theatre of food preparation of the basics

Commitment to local and sustainability

Lots of messaging about their philosophy

Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #4: Activism



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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #4: Activism.

Trend #4: Activism

Consumers are increasingly looking to align with brands and retailers that share their values. Activism plays an important part in this, and it means that brands no longer can be a neutral onlooker; they must take a stand on social and political issues or risk losing customers, and even losing sight of their own brand identity. This is how retailers offer the opportunity for all involved to feel they are contributing to a greater purpose when buying or representing a particular brand, resulting in loyal customers, employees, and shareholders.

Social Foodies, Denmark

Social Foodies is a chain that sells sustainable, high-quality sweets, mostly chocolate and ice cream, to consumers in Denmark, to support farmers in Africa to achieve a better life. Most products in the stores are made from raw materials from Africa, where the chain has built a chocolate factory and employs locals from Cape Town to operate it, similarly to a dairy in Mozambique, where locals received 300 cows and an education in agro-business and are able to put food on the table. The chain now has seven stores; most include a small sitting area or café, where customers can enjoy their ice cream or breakfast. The store also presents workshops, so customers can learn how to make its famous cream puffs.

Social Foodies has created a sustainable concept that, as a way to help small farmers in Africa, sells sustainable sweets to consumers. The concept taps into consumers’ desire to do good through their purchases, but, whereas many retailers and brands today want to explore how they can cater to consumers who are increasingly aware of their own consumption, Social Foodies wishes to help push consumer behavior into an even more conscious direction.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Social Foodies produces great products and the sweets are very popular among the consumers. The chain has several times been nominated by AOK, a renowned guide to Copenhagen, as the “Best Sweets in Town,” a prize the company won in 2018.

In addition to making great products, the chain is run by enthusiasts with a common goal to create jobs and education and improve the local economy in third-world countries. Social Foodies is involved in the production process from the small farmer to the final products in the store and controls the entire supply chain.

Everlane, U.S.A.

Everlane, a digital native, is a U.S.-based apparel retailer with a focus on ethical production of clothes. The company has expanded into bricks-and-mortar retail. Stores were launched with the goal of increasing interaction with customers; layout is simple and spacious, and the product line is updated weekly. The store features a lounge and will host a variety of events, such as classes and panels. Check-out locations around the store are loaded with customers’ purchase history.

The company focus on ethical production and transparency is clearly reflected throughout the store in signs, pamphlets, photos and tags on products, with information on the factories where products are produced and where each comes from. Everlane provides a model for how to communicate that the quality is what it says it is. Everlane’s forthright messaging, coupled with its fashion forward aesthetic, has turned customers into loyalists and inspired the startup of other fashion brands.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Since launching the company in 2011 as a direct-to-consumer clothing brand committed to “radical transparency,” the company has been defying the reign of fast-fashion heavyweights like Zara and H&M. Everlane uses its website and social media handles to offer customers a glimpse into its factories around the world, gives voice to the workers making its garments and shares a price breakdown of each product it sells.

Sois Blessed, Germany

Sois Blessed is a 600 sqm concept store and an inspiring place for all who understand fashion, lifestyle and interior as a statement, not a status.

The store presents brands and products with unique stories behind the labels. One hundred percent of the profits of the Sois Blessed collection go to the children at Hope School, a charity project in East London, South Africa. Sois Blessed invites customers to linger in the Day Bar or enjoy modern floral arrangements, vases and ceramics in the beautiful Flower Studio.

The Sois Blessed concept store is making a difference far beyond an opportunity for shopping. The Day Bar and Flower Studio entice customers to spend time, have lunch or just meet for coffee. The Sois Blessed team has created a cozy, but chic atmosphere, which makes the stay as pleasant as possible. Frequently, events, such as readings, concerts and workshops, etc., contribute to create a place of encounter and exchange.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Social responsibility is becoming more and more important for retailers, if they want to make a real difference. Sois Blessed focuses on encouraging and supporting others. With regular events and its unique fashion line, Sois Blessed takes responsibility and emphasizes a major issue of our time, all within an inspiring and welcoming atmosphere.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends, but they already begin to illustrate how important a brand’s advocacy is to customers, as well as the standard to which brands must uphold them. We at JCWG expect to see more brands take up social stances as 2019 progresses and 2020 looms nearer.

See 4 MORE Activism concepts and more in 2019 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!

2020 Global Retail Trends & Innovations Blog Series: Trend #1 Omni Integration


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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Global Retail Trends and Innovations blog series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Global Retail Trends and Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the next few months, we will explore the hot four trends (Omni Integration, Extreme Convenience, Extreme Experience, and Sustainable Practices) showcased in Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #1: Omni Integration

The rapid change in retail is being driven by new technologies and digital innovations that allow consumers to always be connected. They can shop, return, or share products anytime and anywhere at the touch of a button. Bricks and mortar and the online channel, otherwise known as “bricks and clicks,” are no longer separate entities, but complementary platforms that improve the retail experience. Customers no longer distinguish between the physical and digital worlds. An omni experience encompasses everything from online to off-line experiences. With click and collect, augmented reality assistants, endless aisle, lockers, and data-driven stores, omni experience dominates retail today.

This trend focuses on omnichannel, bricks and clicks, reduced friction, and tech integration.


IKEA has been testing a variety of new formats for several years, aiming to reside in city centers where rents are very high, but customers are wealthier. The new Paris Madeleine store is its latest and most impressive initiative.

Beyond the smaller format (one-third the size of typical French IKEA stores), this new format breaks traditional IKEA rules: no guided route in store, almost no self-service products, and no split between accessories and furniture. The customer journey is more assisted – in store and beyond – with services such as appointments with experts (e.g., interior designer, kitchen salesman), DIY workshops four times per week, and fast delivery and/ or installation assistance (with the start-up Task Rabbit).

More than an urban concept, this store is the sign of a deep shift in IKEA’s vision of its customers’ expectations with two new priorities: more support and more accessibility

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

IKEA Madeleine is adapted to urban customers’ expectations: inspiration, efficiency, service. The traditional IKEA route is not present, allowing customers to have more control about how long they spend in-store. IKEA has taken forward looking steps with sustainability, such as bike delivery, sofa recycling, and furniture renovation.

J.C. Williams Group Comment:

IKEA has also announced that it is opening a similar urban-format store in downtown Toronto. In addition, it has also been testing other smaller city-centre formats, such as a kitchen showroom in Stockholm, as well as a bedroom showroom and accessory space in Madrid.

Crisp, Netherlands

Crisp launched in late 2018 and is the first app-only fresh supermarket in The Netherlands. The concept is not intended to serve as a one-stop supermarket. Instead, Crisp focuses on fresh, high-quality foods and serves consumers who want to be able to find all their favorite artisan foods on one convenient platform. Crisp works with more than 200 small farmers, butchers, bakeries, fishmongers, and other local suppliers. The offering includes handmade sausage rolls from a local bakery, mussels from a well-known fishmonger, and fresh pasta from a factory run by an Italian family. Customers who order before 10 p.m. receive their order at home between 6-10 p.m. the next day for a small fee.

Crisp maintains personal relationships with its suppliers and ensures fair trade. Crisp shares information about its suppliers and how they produce their products, offering transparency to the customer.

The concept relies on the quality and freshness of its products. To ensure these benefits, Crisp collects products from local suppliers and delivers directly to the customer. This on-demand business model also eliminates the risk of stock loss.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Crisp is a unique concept that combines the quality and transparency of local food producers with the convenience of an online supermarket. Previously, these products were accessible to consumers only by stopping at local physical shops that often are closed after work hours. Crisp managed to build a platform where all these products are easily accessible. In addition, Crisp guarantees freshness by delivering directly from its local suppliers to the customer.

Creator, USA

Creator offers a better burger experience with robotic cooks and focuses on quality, instead of mass production. Rather than building robots for existing fast-food or fast-casual chains, Creator’s restaurant “democratizes” access to fresher, better-sourced cuisine.

The company states: “Creator uses robotics and technology to bring a new dining experience to guest with burgers made from scratch. Customers can customize based on preferences and see the creation process throughout. We’re not just making a robot that’s fast and cheap and cranks out food that we sell to other companies, we want to own this whole experience and grow it and deliver it.”

Creator is part of the rapid change in retail generated by new technologies. Its founders brought new robotic technologies into the food industry. With this new technology, they created a machine which can precisely and efficiently make burgers. This integration of technology into the concept of a fast-casual burger franchise made a distinctive and affordable burger possible.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Creator employs the use of robotic cooks in the burger production process. Its uniquely designed machine allows for the creation of a burger with minimal human involvement. Creator’s focus with the robot is to create high-quality burgers at lower cost. The process also allows consumers to customize their burgers, as well as watch its creation throughout the process.

J. C. Williams Group Final Word

This is just a small selection of case studies featured in 2020 Retail Trends and Innovation Publication, but it can already be seen that omni integration is crucial for brands of the future. The boundary between online and offline shopping is dissolving, and it is through this that these brands have made their success. As technologies such as robotics, in-store electronics, and big data collection improve, a frictionless shopping experience will become the new standard for retail.

To read about more Omni Integration concepts, download your free copy of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 HERE.