Retail's BIG Show Report: 6 Trends to Watch in '11

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Yesterday brought the end of the annual National Retail Federation convention, known as Retail's Big Show, held this year in New York City. This year's 100th anniversary event was an opportunity for more than 18,000 retailers to gather and discuss the big picture -- where retail is headed as we go into the next decade.

What were the hot trends under discussion? Here's a look at six important themes experts said to keep an eye on for 2011:

1. Global retailing. America has too many stores to serve current customer needs, noted Richard Hyman, strategic advisor for accounting firm Deloitte. Only 21 percent of retailing's growth is forecast to come in mature economies. For big retail growth, look abroad to capture your share of the $6.1 trillion in growth forecast over the next five years. A measure of that reality could be found in Deloitte's annual Global Powers of Retailing report, which lists the top 250 global retailers. (Its hopeful 2010 theme: "Emerging from the downturn.") Only half of the top 10 retailers are now U.S.-based, with the list topped as usual by Walmart.

2. Going green. Nearly half the retail workshops at the Big Show on Sunday dealt with how to be a more environmentally friendly retailer. Author and keynote speaker Paco Underhill said to expect more mixed-use development, with shopping, offices and apartments all in the same complex, a formula that allows consumers to walk to stores.

3. Going mobile. Will your store have a mobile-friendly Web site, or create an app? Are you findable on localizing social media such as Foursquare? Several sessions discussed how to capture the mobile opportunity.

4. Local relevance. If you're not expanding worldwide, you'd better be tightly focused on meeting the specific needs of customers in your local market. It's the edge independents can use against larger chains.

5. Social networking. Though many in the over-40 set don't even know what social networking is yet, its impact on retailing will be profound next year and beyond, the Deloitte report forecast. Many retailers are lagging behind their customers' adoption of social networks, and need to step up and learn how to reach customers on their favorite platforms. The upside of social media's growth: Much more personalized marketing can be done through social-network channels.

6. Shrinking assortments. In the past, many large retailers have bragged about the number of items they carried, but in this age of frugality, big assortments have become a liability, Deloitte reports. Savvy retailers will use technology to monitor consumer behavior and offer leaner assortments of their most desirable items.

What retail trends are you watching for 2011? Leave a comment and let us know what you think will be important to your business this year.

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