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How would one begin to describe the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the past three years? Well, the Collins English Dictionary announced that its 2022 word of the year was “permacrisis”, describing an “extended period of instability and insecurity”. It certainly has felt that way, as many of us were expecting some level of reprieve in a ‘post-pandemic’ year. Still at a loss for words, I was encouraged to see a new term by historian Adam Tooze, describing the global economic situation as a “polycrisis”, “where a number of depressing factors have combined to create one big alarming supersituation”. To illustrate the interconnectedness of the shocks we’re experiencing and how they’ve exploded even during the current year, Adam Tooze’s graphic below depicts the state of the world at the beginning of 2022 when the war in Ukraine was a mere scare at the time… 

… and then six months later, with elements such as the risk of nuclear escalation and stagflation emerging.
Source: Adam Tooze

Former US Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, recently remarked: “This is the most complex, disparate and cross-cutting set of challenges that I can remember in the 40 years that I have been paying attention to such things”. Many of us would agree.

So, in reflecting on the state of the global retail sector and the trends that will shape the industry in 2023 and beyond, it is important to outline these global megashifts, as we refer to them at Trade Intelligence, as a backdrop to assessing the way in which they will influence retail and shoppers at large, in an interconnected fashion. In our latest Retail Trends 2023 report, which we are releasing at the end of 2022, we provide our clients and stakeholders with the latest insights into the outlook of the industry in preparation for the new year. Below we outline one of the main global megashifts, the global retail trend stemming from it and a related shopper trend that will drive behaviour in 2023 and beyond:

Global Megashift: Race to Net Zero

The narrative around climate commitments is now firmly positioned as the ‘Race to Net Zero’ and the recognition that the world needs to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable and secure future as quickly as possible. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CO2 emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030, versus 2010 levels, to meet the central Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of this century. This is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall. 
Global investments in energy transitions grew from $32bn in 2004 to $755bn in 2021, with Asia-Pacific being the leading region accounting for nearly half of the global energy transition investments, according to BloombergNEF. In 2023, investments in energy transitions are likely to accelerate.

Global Retail Trend: Brand Refillutions

The concept of refillable products and in-store refill stations is not a new one and as retailers aim to reduce the use of plastic and single-use packaging, the refill trend has continued to grow. Some of the key questions, however, have been around what the role of the brand is within refill solutions, as stations have typically been unbranded and focussed on commodity categories. Other considerations have been around how refill solutions and products can integrate seamlessly into the store and enhance the overall shopping experience. Retailers and brands in the food and beauty categories, in particular, are addressing these challenges by investing in creating refill solutions and stations that are impactfully branded and packaged, addressing zero-waste practices while providing the pleasurable shopping experience shoppers expect.

Shopper need and trend: The need to make an impact, leading to the trend of shopper activism

Shoppers have become increasingly in tune with broader society and the planet around them, with their expectations of governments, corporations and brands being as high as they’ve ever been. From expecting retailers to treat their staff and suppliers fairly, to supporting the local community and demanding sustainable practices and processes, shoppers will exercise their purchasing power as activists.

As we’ve established, the macro forces underway are mega-catalysts for how the retail industry is evolving and ultimately, how shopper needs are developing and behaviours are changing. Although there is a lot of change underway, there is no doubt that the retail sector, both globally and locally, is adapting all the time, and ultimately serving society, shoppers and their staff better. 

For more on these global megashifts, global retail trends, shopper trends and how they’re poised to drive the response of South African retailers, look out for the latest Trade Intelligence Retail Trends 2023 and Beyond report. Click here for more information.

About Trade Intelligence

Trade Intelligence is South Africa’s leading source of consumer goods retail research, insights and capability-building solutions, focusing on the industry’s corporate and independent retailers and wholesalers. We are the trusted voice of the sectors in which we operate, aggregating information to amplify knowledge, grow capability, and enable collaboration that drives profitable trading relationships and sustainable sector growth.

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