Retail trends and issues

How to stay ahead of the changing retail environment

RSM understands retail’s evolution. The lines separating manufacturers, distributors and retailers are blurring due to e-commerce that enables more companies to sell directly to consumers. In response, retailers have crafted omnichannel strategies based on building a relationship with customers wherever they buy, be that in store, online or via smartphone. Competition from manufacturers selling direct and e-commerce’s global reach is creating an even more bruising marketplace, with more pressure on margins—particularly for retailers with heavy bricks-and-mortar investment and inefficient e-commerce platforms.

With more than 1,900 retail clients nationally, RSM brings insight and ideas to all segments of the sector, from convenience stores and grocers to specialty stores and e-tailers. We bring retail specific services and insights on vital topics including changing consumer preferences, branding, technology, real estate, risk and labor issues.


  • Changing consumer preferences: The shift in consumer preferences and buying patterns away from traditional retail spending and toward experiences. To compete effectively in this environment, retailers need to optimize their operations. This includes inventory planning based on data analytics, minimizing transportation and other operating costs across the organization and looking for alternatives to engage consumers in nontraditional ways to gain their business.
  • Regulatory environment: Implications of the Wayfair court case, tariffs and trade tensions and more continue to challenge retailers. Companies that can manage today's online sales growth and their supply chain and operations to minimize the impact of the tariffs on their customers will be most successful. 
  • Technology: The technology tools behind omnichannel marketing and the big data generated across those channels enable retailers to understand their customers’ behavior wherever they shop. As a result, retailers can create strong, long-term relationships with consumers by building differentiated brands with value beyond price competition. At the same time, technologies create additional risk in the form of data security and privacy.
  • Labor: New labor policies pose additional challenges on the bottom line. Rising minimum wage and the scarcity of qualified talent in many markets will require a fresh look at staffing strategies across all retail channels.
  • Capital and finance: Retailers are benefitting from continued low unemployment, higher wages and lower tax rates due to tax reform. Investment interest in the space remains strong, but private equity investors are more selective as they look for retail concepts that are on trends with the demands of today’s consumer.

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