Fraud Prevention Month: 3 Common Retail Scams



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In honour of fraud prevention month, JCWG has reworked this piece originally from an interview with then-Staff Sergeant Chris Lawson of the Halton Police Service on common retail fraud and prevention tips.

In this new retail age of technology, store capacity maximums, and click-and-collect, the risk of shoplifting has diminished greatly. However, the trade-off is that the risk of other forms of loss are on the rise. This has only been compounded by the effects of working from home, one tap payments, and online shopping. Here are three common retail scams that you should be aware of.

The Executive Scam

This scam has been estimated to cost American businesses 2.3 billion dollars in 2016 and is a serious concern to businesses at all levels.

Here is how it works: Criminals take the time to learn about a business, including the names and email addresses of key people within the business. The scammers take the time to understand the target organization’s relationships, activities, interests, and travel and/or purchasing plans. Once this information has been obtained, the fraudster will pretend to be the president, CEO, or owner of an organization, and send an email from a fake email account to the finance manager (or anyone with authority to send a wire transfer or make a payment), requesting a wire transfer. The email will look nearly identical to a legitimate email — except for one small and hard to detect change.

For example, let’s say Carl Simpson is the owner of Happy Pet, a chain of five pet stores and has the email of  

One day, Sally, who looks after the books and payments for Happy Pet, receives an email from “Carl Simpson” that says:

“Hi Sally, are you busy? I need you to wire me $50,000 ASAP. I am trying to buy another store and need the cash wired to complete the deal. Let me know when you can do this, and I’ll send you the account details. And please don’t mention this to anyone; this is a secret deal.”  

Sally, wanting to be a good employee, quickly responds, receives the necessary details, and promptly wires the funds — typically to an offshore location.

Sadly, Sally didn’t notice the email was from instead of the proper domain of “” and now the $50,000 is gone.

See the subtle difference one character can make?

In Ontario and all of Canada, this is a very common scam, with millions of dollars being lost. To prevent this, ensure that you have policies in place to double check the veracity of emails.

S/Sgt. Lawson’s advice to retailers is this:

“A simple policy of verbal confirmation of instructions can save you a lot of money. Talk with your staff about the policy and tell them that every time a request is made for a wire transfer or an unusual payment, that they call the requestor to confirm it.”

Change of Bank Account Scam

This is very similar to the Executive Scam and has many of the same principles, but with a slight twist.

The criminal element will delve into a company to learn who the key people are in finance or accounting and find out who some of the companies are that the victim company uses as suppliers. Once they have this information, the fraudster will email the bookkeeper from what appears to be a legitimate supplier email, but it will be from a fake email account (just like the executive scam).

Typically, the email will say something like:

“Hi Pam, we have been having trouble with our general bank account, and the bank has requested we temporarily refrain from using that account until they sort it out. For the time being, can you kindly remit your payment for the last invoice to our account in Europe? Please get back to me, and I’ll send you the details of where to wire the funds.”

Again, Pam, wanting to be a good and efficient employee, quickly responds and “pays” the invoice by wiring the funds to the new account. The fake email domain is only changed by one character making it exceedingly difficult to notice the change. S/Sgt. Lawson cautions businesses that this scam is quickly gaining ground.

“This scam has targeted businesses small and large: a national retailer fell victim to this scam and sent nearly $600,000 to an offshore account which will never be recovered.
Similarly, a medium sized retailer, sent $250,000 to a bank in Prague after receiving an email from whom they thought was their supplier in China stating they had changed banks and requested invoice payment to a “new account.”
In each of the cases, the money was lost, and the real invoice still had to be paid. The best way to prevent being a victim of this crime is to have a policy for your staff to speak directly to the supplier any time a change in payment is requested.”

Chargeback Scam

With e-commerce at an all-time high, businesses are more at risk for chargeback or “did not receive” scams. Typically targeted more at small businesses, customers will order a product, wait for it to arrive, and then either demand a refund claiming they did not receive the item or simply apply for a chargeback. Other claims they will apply for a chargeback include that the item was not as described or arrived damaged. This not only results in loss of income, but some services will penalize the seller for too many chargebacks. Here are some of the ways that businesses can protect themselves against this scam:

  • Pay for product tracking. This is one of the simplest ways that businesses can protect themselves. It’s more expensive, but worth it.
  • Ensure that the product description includes a photo and as much detail as possible. This is especially important for electronic parts that only work for specific models.
  • Pack products carefully and, if possible, take a picture of every package sent out. Or establish and make public a packing policy.
  • Make your return policy transparent and easy to understand and include it in all customer correspondence.

Now that you know some of the scams that your company may be targeted with, it’s time to look at your internal processes and where they can be tightened up to help prevent this from happening. Knowledge is the key to minimizing the impact when it comes to loss prevention, so taking the time to educate your staff is an investment well worth making.

Global Retail Trends & Innovations 2021: Award-Winning Innovation Case



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As part of our collaborative annual publication with the Ebeltoft Group, JCWG each year submits retail innovations from Canada to be featured in our book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations. JCWG is proud to announce that Grocery Neighbour, a Toronto-based start-up, won case of the year in this year’s edition!

Grocery Neighbour is a new format grocery store where the store is entirely contained in an 18-wheeler truck. Each truck will stock a variety of products including fresh produce, meats, fish, or local items such as bakery or specialty foods. Similar to how an ice cream truck cruises around a neighbourhood, customers can flag down the truck to stop by using an app. The app also allows customers to scan and pay for products, as well as track their local truck to plan their shopping basket.

We had the opportunity to chat with the creator, Frank Sinopoli, to learn more about this unique new concept.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?

A: When the pandemic hit, I immediately told many groups via Facebook that this was the time to leapfrog where we currently were and that as a result of the pandemic, tremendous opportunity would present itself. When I locked myself up in a room to focus on what problem I could solve, Grocery Neighbour almost naturally formed in my mind as it was a culmination of my past. (I started and sold Canada’s first digital grocery coupon and prior to that Canada’s first stand alone Mayflower agent when united van lines bought the rights to the worlds most popular moving brand.) 

Q: What inspired you to work with local farmers?

A: From a logistic, price and quality perspective it just makes sense. But at the heart of the reasoning is really to support local businesses and to give “the little guy” a real stage to showcase their amazing produce, etc. As an entrepreneur, I want to pay homage to people out there trying to make their own dreams thrive as I’m no different than them.  

Q: Where and when will we see the first trucks roll out?

A: The trucks are rolling out very soon and we’ve promised that date to a major publication who is doing a feature video release. The first couple of stores are going to tour the neighbourhoods that voted us in so they can experience it before we commit to deploying a full-time store in those neighbourhoods. 

Q: What challenges, if any, do you expect to face as you launch?

A: The biggest challenge was deciphering between WANT and NEED… This is a really “cool” idea to a lot of people and with the abundance of votes that have come in, it was important to service the NEED first as we set out to solve problems. Additionally, the horizon of a business that services a need in my opinion carries less risk than a business based on a want that could lose its novelty. This isn’t a fad, it’s a solution to a real problem. Food Insecurity. 

Q: You mentioned that you already have some surveys underway. What is the general attitude of potential customers towards Grocery Neighbour?

A: Time is the most precious thing we have; it’s become VERY evident that people are resonating with the amount of time a service like this could save them as well as the convenience and cool factor of course. We’re incredibly grateful for the amount of demand out there. 

As the fleet rolls out, Grocery Neighbour will be positioned to curate the selection of products to each neighbourhood it serves, partnering with local farmers, bakers, and butchers to provide only the freshest product. Furthermore, in-app checkout will grant insight into what customers are buying, so product assortments can accurately reflect the ethnic, cultural, or seasonal needs of their customers.

  • Personal preference. Fresh local products have exclusively been in-store products. Unlike grocery delivery, customers can choose their own produce just how they like it.
  • No contact, no waste. Using the app, customers can pay for their purchases without checkout lines. The ability to bring your own containers even when selecting produce reduces waste.
  • Driveway convenience. For customers working from home or without cars, this service offers the same benefits as grocery delivery – but without the hassle. No minimum orders, exact arrival times, and no delivery costs.

Grocery Neighbour is the first of its kind, and the model can be expanded to include ready-to-prepare meals and more. Like a milkman service, customers are getting the freshest of the fresh from the comfort of their own homes. Even post-pandemic, with homes getting smaller and the space to store food also decreases, this model will remain relevant. We are excited to watch for the launch of Grocery Neighbour!

Click here to download your FREE copy of Global Retail Trends & Innovations 2021!

4 Trends to Watch in 2021



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This piece was partially adapted from excerpts from our new book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2021, written in partnership with the Ebeltoft Group, a network of global retail advisors dedicated to bringing you the best of the best.

In 2020 the world was turned upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic led to major shifts within retail and transformed the way consumers shop, unlike any previous disruption. What is in store for us in 2021? Our new book, Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2021 aims to answer exactly that, by bringing together a curated selection of case studies under 4 trends: Omni Integration, Extreme Convenience, Extreme Experience, and Sustainability. Today we will introduce these trends and how they have changed under COVID-19.

Omni Integration

The emergence of COVID-19 sped up the need for technology adaptions 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 are no longer separate entities, but complementary platforms that improve the retail experience. Customers no longer distinguish between the physical and digital worlds. They want to be served at anytime, anywhere and through every channel. 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. 

Extreme Convenience

The modern consumer is busy, and the era of seamless, frictionless retailing is here. Due to the pandemic, the customer wants to shop faster and more efficiently than before. 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

  • Safety, fast shopping, and convenient one-stop-shopping is getting more and more important.
  • Retailers are leveraging technology to expedite services and create a seamless experience.
  • Offering customer service online is a hot topic since 2020
  • Pick-up locations are popping up around the world to get items in customers’ hands conveniently and quickly.
  • Barriers — ordering, checkout, product availability — are removed through technology advancements.

Extreme Experience

Before the coronavirus outbreak, consumers were craving physical experience and entertainment. This trend has been slowed down by COVID-19. Nonetheless, consumers still want to interact with retailers and brands, pushing them to offer innovative concepts that can replace previous face-to-face experience with interactive online solutions.

Consumers do not choose products based solely on functional value, but also based on emotions that engagement and experience invoke. Intensive storytelling and strong content are paramount to creating these emotional ties, which will keep customers loyal through changing situations.

In 2021, the main challenge will be to facilitate physical shopping in a safe manner while developing online engagement solutions that will partly cover the lost advantages of offline experiences. Important topics for retailers and brands include:

  • Ensure a safe shopping environment in the stores at all time
  • Integrate elements that elevate and define the identity of the brand offline and online
  • Offer an ever-changing experience that creates excitement and a lasting impression to attract potential new customers.
  • Develop personal customer service solutions online that were previously only taking place offline.


Consumers are also more conscious than ever. There is no backup planet, and customers are calling for sustainable solutions and transparent chains. Additionally, consumers are more aware that their personal health is not guaranteed. In 2021, a healthy diet, wellness and mental health is at the top of customers’ minds.

Implementing sustainable practices is all about demonstrating social responsibility and highlighting an ethical, honest, and responsible business. It means taking responsibility by offering consumption in good conscience by producing environmentally sound and responsible products and services.

Sustainability, animal welfare, and fair trade are in high demand. Consumers are increasingly looking to align with brands and retailers that share their values. Brands can connect with their customers on a deeper level when they can feel like they are contributing to a greater purpose by spending at a specific retailer.

JCWG Final Word

There is no question that 2020 was retail’s most tumultuous year yet. With it behind us and its lessons under our belt, now is the time to innovate, adapt, and thrive… to make 2021 the best year of retail ever!

Stay tuned for more information on how you can get your free copy today!

12 Festive Retail Innovations to Boost Your Holiday Spirit



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We have worked with our global partners at the Ebeltoft Group to bring you some of the best in festive retail both past and present from around the world. Click any thumbnail to get started!

2021 is just around the corner. Are your stores operating with cutting-edge innovations in mind? Keep an eye out for Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2021 for inspiration. Coming soon!

Grocery as a Retail Indicator



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Pre-pandemic, the Canadian grocery sector was on the cusp of disruption: saved from the fate of some U.S. small grocers (which were forced to compete with regional grocers), small grocery banners owned by major players (e.g., Loblaw, Metro or Sobeys) were segmenting into ethnic supermarkets, discounters, or high-end grocers. Grocery’s strength and department stores’ weakness meant that at the beginning of 2020, grocery stores were poised to become the new shopping centre anchor.

Grocery thrived while all other retail looked on. Source: J. C. Williams Group National Retail Bulletin

Post-March 2020, grocery was suddenly one of the only retail stores available and served as a testing ground for the myriad of new practices and technologies that would come into play over the course of the summer. In fact, grocery was the first to implement and subsequently streamline a number of processes that are now considered standard for retail:

  • Queuing systems (both low-tech and high-tech, where customers log into the queue from their phones and wait in their cars)
  • Curbside pickup
  • Sanitation practices & distancing signage
  • Cashier and staff protection

Because of grocery’s unique position this year, many of the trends that have hit other sectors have hit grocery first. Here are 5 trends that emerged in grocery first and 1 that hasn’t spread – yet.


While the work-from-home isn’t strictly a retail trend, it has had a profound effect on it nonetheless. For grocery, part of the huge surge in spend was due to restaurants being closed, but it also was a factor of how much time customers were spending at home. The combined effect was increased interest in cooking at home, especially during the summer when backyard hosting within social bubbles became intensely popular. For other sectors, the work-from-home trend has changed the hot seller list, such as leisure clothes vs. work clothes, home office furniture and décor, or hobby items and entertainments.

Shop Local

The pandemic was equalizing in a way that only a crisis can bring about. With Canadians’ work schedules changed, it highlighted how important small businesses are to their local neighbourhoods. Add that to the decentralization of the population into city centres as commutes were put on hold, and the shop local movement was born. For grocery, this was lucrative in catering to the local population from an ethnic or cultural standpoint. Outside of grocery, the convenience of nearby store offerings that likely weren’t as crowded had the shop local movement gain traction as well.

Caring Corp

The sudden and widespread lack of work and income meant that brands had to be clear that they were putting their teams’ health above productivity. Grocery stores were under particular scrutiny as consumers were sympathetic to the grocery store employees they interacted with face-to-face on a regular basis. Outside of grocery, brands were still under the spotlight for their compassionate practices, including for customers who were themselves healthy but had to care for others. Overall, more brand transparency was a welcome change that will hopefully stick around post-pandemic.


Just as the pandemic brought to light how much small businesses rely on their local neighbourhoods, it did the same for local farmers and manufacturers who struggled during shutdown. Especially as generation-Z enters the consumer market, grocers are being held to changing standards of community sourcing and transparency of their suppliers’ sustainable (or unsustainable) practices. Outside of grocery, customers are more interested in how their products are made, especially in terms of the natural environment, which was hit especially hard this year.

E-commerce Compatibility

Grocery, due to its nature as perishables, was one of the last sectors to make it online in a meaningful way. For grocery, our research indicates that dry or ‘centre aisle’ products are still most e-commerce compatible whereas fresh products such as meat, seafood, produce, bakery and so on are preferred to be selected in person. However, grocery stores have been leveraging e-commerce compatibility to drive BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) sales, something that other sectors have definitely been picking up on and adapting for their own pick-up in-store programs.


The final trend that was “pioneered” by grocery is the adoption of robots. In a post-pandemic world, grocery’s early adopton of robots will put them ahead of the curve as stricter sanitation standards become widespread. Here are some examples of robots already in use in grocery that could be adapted for other sectors in the future:

  • Starship Robots at Save Mart – small size hyper-local delivery robots that deliver online grocery orders.
  • Voila by Sobeys – robots that pack orders at a dedicated distribution centre.
  • “Marty” robots at Giant supermarkets – alerts human workers to spills and other issues on the store floor.

Final Word

All in all, grocery has been a good way to track the “pulse” of retail under a pandemic. Continuing to keep an eye on it could give valuable knowledge into the next big trend of your industry. Or, let us watch it for you! Contact us today to find out how the expert insights from JCWG’s RetailWATCH program can help your business thrive pandemic and beyond.

By the Numbers: COVID-19’s Retail Impact So Far



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Today’s blog is adapted from an earlier piece posted on our the blog by partner, Ebeltoft Group, with the title “Is it a V or W-Shaped Recovery?” Click here to read the original post.

It appeared in June that retail has made a remarkable V-shaped recovery – but the results released this month are suggesting that it isn’t as simple as that.

It can easily be said that the 2020 pandemic shutdown impacted retail on an unprecedented level, with some categories reporting a negative growth of nearly -90%. As can be expected, the graph below illustrates that major product category results follow closely with store closure rates, where April was the first and only full month of full shutdown across Canada and some of the United States. Canadian retail recovered at a rate almost as fast as it dropped but has since slowed down without quite reaching pre-pandemic levels. This slowdown is mirrored in the U.S., where more recent numbers are available.

Source: J. C. Williams Group National Retail Bulletin September 2020
Source: J. C. Williams Group National Retail Bulletin September 2020

Not Reduced Spending, Just Spending Differently

Unlike other depressions, consumers did have money to spend, just nowhere to spend it. As a result, when stores reopened, pent-up demand drove rapid recovery. Moreover, Canadians had a need for different assortment of products to suit a new assortment of needs. Many Canadians spent more time at home this summer than they have in years gone by, and with no school or summer camp, so have their kids. The need for exercise equipment when gyms were closed, entertainment and hobbies for their kids, and home goods to update the spaces they are suddenly spending so much time in all drove major increases.

Source: J. C. Williams Group Canadian E-tail Report (Summer 2020 edition)*

The reduced spend at restaurants is also illustrated in the chart, as Canadians spent 18% less at restaurants during this period compared to the same period last year. Not only does this category face unique challenges in terms of customer safety, restaurants would not have benefitted from any pent-up demand.

Government assistance has been credited as a major driver for increased spend, but the J.C. Williams Group Canadian E-tail Report (Summer 2020 edition) found that just a quarter of Canadians received government assistance as a result of COVID-19, compared to half of all Canadians experiencing some kind of income loss or disruption. Either way, Canadians haven’t reduced spending – just distributed it differently.

Omnichannel Integration

Certain categories, most notably Food and Pharmacies, did not experience a sales decline. These categories experienced limited shutdowns and are essential services that shoppers had no choice but to visit, making them the perfect test subject for innovation as the rest of retail looked on. Food and Grocery in particular saw challenges that other categories would later face on a rapid timescale: product touchpoints, supply chain shortages, and a change in standard tooling. The most successful solution was the buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) model, which isn’t new, but saw a huge surge in use. J.C. Williams Group’s Canadian Etail Report (Summer 2020 edition) revealed that BOPIS grew by 200% in Food and Grocery, compared to a 36% increase across all categories. In the U.S., Walmart and Target both saw huge growth in their curbside pickup programs, with the latter reporting a 700% increase for Q2. For many retailers that had to shut down their stores, BOPIS or online webstores were their only source of revenue for the duration of the shutdown. Even afterwards, having these systems established will put them ahead of the game.

Keeping It Local

The weakest businesses in recessions are the small ones. Many of these, such as independent gyms, apparel, gift shops, and especially restaurants rely on the social aspect of retail to attract customers, something that just isn’t possible during a pandemic. Furthermore, experiential models such as local coffee shops or bars rely on in-person visits, something that just can’t be purchased online. However, with consumers working from home and the perceived crowds of the city, spending is becoming decentralized out of city centres. This combined with the already-established movement to buy local has supported the most vulnerable members of retail. The Canadian E-tail Report (Summer 2020 edition) highlights that almost one quarter of Canadians changed their shopping habits to actively buy locally sourced products. Delivery programs such as UberEATS or Toronto’s new service Foodzinga (which promises to keep its commission rate low in response to restaurant backlash on other services) also help out small restaurants who might not have the capital to launch a delivery program of their own.

Next Steps – Holiday 2020

Amazon is, as always, ahead of the game, having positioned its rescheduled Prime Day perfectly for the anticipated early holiday shopping with the slogan “Save now. Wrap later.” Despite the reschedule and dramatically reduced promotion of the event (e.g., no Prime Day concert, and confirmation of the event just weeks ahead of it), Prime Day 2020 again smashed records, and counter-sales on non-Amazon retail sites saw a 76% increase in the U.S. and 69% globally compared to the first day of Prime Day in 2019 (Digital Commerce 360). Customers are already starting to buy for holiday 2020.

Last year, Canadians spent almost a third of their gift expenditure online. But in 2020, this could be as high as two thirds or more. Retailers and mall operators alike have a unique responsibility to keep customers safe during this potential second wave, starting by taking a very close look at customer flow this holiday season.

* Canadian Etail Report – J.C. Williams Group has been conducting a semi-annual survey of 5,000 Canadian on their ecommerce shopping habits since 2013.

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!

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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.