We know, we know, 2021 has been quite a doozy for most, if not all, of us. That’s why any and all retail moves that entailed a pivot or signaled a fresh start continued to ping on my radar; after months of the same ole-same ole, who wouldn’t crave something different? I kept watch and continued to follow stories and trends throughout the year, and here are some of the moves and grooves that captured my fancy in 2021.
No Vacancy No Problem (Sears/Kmart)
Regardless of where we fall in the “to vax or not to vax” debate, managing any amount of people seeking medical assistance in a pandemic presents a very real space issue. With the recommended six feet of distance between people ever present, mass vax sites needed enormous spaces to provide the service. Enter the now-vacant former sites of your local Sears and Kmart department stores. With so much square footage for lease, they served as the perfect remedy to solve the dilemmas and deliver the goods. For the longest, the story about both retailers has been that they would continue to slide, possibly into oblivion as the retail landscape carried on without them. Seeing them back in rotation, even under these dire circumstances, was such a welcome move that I breached my personal essay hiatus to write about them.
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Co-Workin It Is Saxy (Saks Fifth Avenue)
When legacy luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue began scaling back its storefront footprint, a curious pivot at the company absolutely caught my eye. Saks joined forces with co-working giant WeWork and SaksWorks, its co-working offering, was born. SaksWorks offers up memberships in boutique co-working spaces in and around the NYC flagship store. Memberships include access to food and drink, nail care services, and wellness initiatives. There are also speaker series and opportunities to volunteer or join a philanthropic cause. SaksWorks memberships start at $49 for a single day pass and run up to nearly $3,000 for a year membership.
Doin It For Themselves (Costco)
All year long, hubbub over supply chain woes dominated the zeitgeist. Whether it was related to the container ship lodged in the Suez Canal (yes, that happened THIS year) or images of boats loaded to the brim with goods waiting to dock in ports, we took notice. We also took to the socials to ask: where is my stuff? Because supply chain woes hemmed up everything from furniture orders to the shelves in our grocery stores that were oddly bare of pickles and canned cat food. As Holiday 2021 loomed, club warehouse giant Costco made a bold statement by showing the world it didn’t come to play after it began chartering its own ships to assist with the transport of goods between Asia and the US and Canada.
Honorable Mention: Was This A Big Mistake? (Peloton)
Before it even launched, much ado already surrounded And Just Like That, the HBO Max reboot of late 90s-early aughts giant Sex and the City. When fans tuned in to the first episode only to witness a Peloton bike ceremoniously take out the character Mr. Big played by actor Chris Noth, they got big mad at the company. Shares plummeted, the socials weighed in, and Peloton scrambled to fix their product placement nightmare by issuing a commercial featuring Noth and touting the benefits of exercise and the overall safety of Peloton bikes. Peloton later removed the ad after sexual assault allegations related to Noth surfaced.