Retail Trends: 69 Ideas That Changed Retailing Forever

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Retail sales are stimulated by innovation.

Here are 69 retail trends that led to enhanced retailing success:

Prior to 1900

  • In 1846 Alexander Stewart established the Marble Palace Department Store.
  • In 1876 Montgomery Ward sent out the first catalogue.
  • In 1887 Coca-Cola created the first coupon.
  • In 1896 S&H green stamps created retail’s first loyalty program.
  • In the 1890’s stores created their own private labels.
  • In 1898 Bloomingdale”s installed the first escalator.


  • Department stores introduced credit cards for use in their own stores.
  • In 1907 Jim Casey founded American Messenger Company which later became UPS.
  • During the 1900’s product placement appeared in silent movies.


  • In 1911 merchants organized the National Retail Federation.
  • In 1916 the first shopping malls appear, anchored by a department store.


  • In the 1930s Singer Sewing Machines becomes one of the first companies to offer layaway.
  • During the 1930’s outlet stores appeared offering damaged and excess product but only to employees.
  • In 1939 President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November from the 30th.


  • In 1947 the film Miracle on 34th Street made the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a national event.


  • In 1952 barcodes arrived, speeding retail checkouts.
  • In 1955 Disneyland positioned gift stores at the end of rides to generate customer purchases.
  • In 1958 Bank of America launched BankAmericard, a universal credit card that would become Visa


  • In 1960 the day after Thanksgiving was nicknamed Black Friday.
  • In 1961 stores challenged blue laws and altering their hours to remain open on Sunday.


  • In 1970 big-box stores appeared offering expansive selections of product and lower prices.
  • In 1970 laws were enacted against shoplifting giving rise to a new term, loss prevention.
  • In 1972 SAP software offered an integrated assessment of real-time SKU performance.
  • In 1973 Mario Cardullo patented radio frequency tags (RFID).
  • In 1979 FedEx Next-Day Delivery revolutionized package transport.
  • In 1978 restaurateur Gene Moshel created the first Point-of-Sale (POS) system on an Apple computer.


  • During the 1980’s stores began using Customer Relation Management (CRM) which traced customers’ buying habits.
  • During the 1980’s Walmart aggressively expanded making Made in America a distant memory as the relentless drive for the lowest price made Made in China the norm.
  • In 1983 downtown merchants formed associations to lure customers back from shopping malls.
  • In 1983 labor scheduling software automated scheduling.
  • In 1985 Short Message Service (SMS) allowed the sending of text messages directly to users' mobile phones.
  • In 1986 American Girl Stores created niche-marketing of selected products through retailtainment.
  • In 1987 Website Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is introduced.
  • During the 80’s in-store sampling and product demonstrations stimulated customer interest.


  • In 1992 the Mall of America opened as the biggest mall in America transforming shopping from Main Street to a city of entertainment, shopping, and restaurants..
  • In 1994 the Internet made it possible for anyone to offer online sales.
  • In 1994 the QR-code directed consumers to preferred, online advertising channels.
  • In 1994 the Retail Doctor was established.
  • In 1994 Blockbuster introduced the gift card, replacing paper gift certificates.
  • In 1995 opened, changing forever the way we buy books and soon, everything else.
  • In 1995 EBay established the first bidding website.
  • In 1995 the first Craigslist appeared spelling out the demise of newspapers’ classified sections.
  • In 1996 promotions through email attracted an expansive customer base.
  • In 1996 online banner ads appeared, offering a new way of marketing directly to consumers.
  • In 1996 the expansion of luxury brand stores created a market for high-margin retail sales.
  • In 1998 Google enabled customers to easily find what they were looking for.
  • In 1998 Paypal introduced an easy way to pay for online purchases.
  • In the 90’s, the rise of self-service cut costs and made customers comfortable completing transactions alone.
  • During the 90’s, Pop-up stores appeared.
  • During the 90’s, Smartphones provided the ability for consumers to purchase products from their phones.


  • In 2001 Apple debuted their first Apple Retail Store to a skeptical press achieving over $3000 per square foot in 2012 – twice that of Tiffany’s.
  • In 2003 Apple introduced the iTunes Store changing forever the way customers purchase music.
  • In 2004 Facebook opened new ways of attracting customers with fan pages.
  • In 2007 the first virtual mirrors allowed a woman to see how she looked with makeup applied.
  • In 2007 Circuit City fired 3400 workers they considered overpaid, ushering in an era of low pay for retail employees.
  • During 2007, online video became a highly visible means for retailers to connect with their customers through free sites like YouTube.
  • In 2009 Near Field Communication (NFC) technology allowed customers to use smartphones to quickly purchase products in-store without needing a cash register..
  • In 2008 online and social media sites cultivated customer databases, using their contact information to sell daily deals like Groupon.
  • In 2009 smartphone apps allowed customers a way to shop via multiple channels.
  • In 2009 Fashion’s Night Out jump-started an industry battered by the global recession.
  • Online interviewing allowed larger retailers to sift through mountains of applicants leading to a homogenization of retail employees.


  • In 2010 Big Data provided cutting-edge analytical techniques for marketing and brand positioning.
  • In 2010 order online/pickup in-store allowed customers to place their order through smartphones or online and then pickup at the store.
  • In 2010 Small Business Saturday debuted as a marketing program by American Express.
  • In 2010 JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson curtailed all promotions and coupons, losing roughly one third of their business in the first 9 months.
  • In 2011 interactive retailing delivered different content based on a customer’s product preferences.
  • During 2012 the capacity of CRM software joined with Big Data to provide precise data comparing competitors' prices and allowing adaptive pricing on websites.
  • In 2012 stores opened on Thanksgiving, making Black Friday less a day than a generic term.
  • In 2012 personal 3D printers make printing multi-dimensional, functional items increasingly economical potentially bypassing retailers for to “print” in-home.

See also, How to Battle the 7 Retail Trends Affecting Today's Consumer

In Sum
The ideas presented here provide a glimpse of how retailers constantly strive to serve their customers and improve their sales with the latest trends.

They all are part of retail’s DNA.

And by the way, where else can you find stuff like this?