The United States’ aggregate retail industry is evolving at lightning speed. Retailers of all sizes and stripes are premiering new products daily, each one geared to a market with its own buying motivations and preferences. Each business uses a blend of communications media and platforms to reach its target audience.
Each year, the National Retail Federation (or NRF) spotlights the latest industry trends at the organization’s annual New York City-based conference. Via an expert panel, retail innovators like Andrew Brooks, Sinclair Global founder, share their insights related to pertinent narratives. The NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show event was expected to draw almost 40,000 retail industry professionals. This landmark gathering took place just before the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant realignments in many segments of the retail industry.
Highlights of the NRF 2020 Vision Panel
The NRF 2020 Vision event schedule included a highly relevant panel discussion on the constantly shifting retail landscape. In this themed exchange, the moderator introduced varied topics related to brands’ innovative marketing and communications strategies. Collectively, the strategies are designed to help the brand gain traction with consumers while the company optimizes its competitive position.
Four US-based digital and brand experts engaged the audience during this lively hour-long exchange. Each panelist is intimately familiar with social platforms’ workings and advantages. In addition, the panelists’ knowledge of the media industry’s evolution enables them to execute tailored communications strategies for their brands.
Finally, the NRF 2020 Vision Panel delved into the increasing importance of social influencers in a product’s marketing program. Panelists detailed their experiences in working with influencers, noting that the nature of the interactions has gradually changed. Finally, each panelist offered sage advice on getting the most out of influencer relationships.
Valuable Insights from Serial Entrepreneur Andrew Brooks
Entrepreneurs who have launched multiple businesses have a distinct perspective on the process. Like fellow New Yorker (and serial entrepreneur) Miki Agrawal, panelist Andrew Brooks has run the gauntlet of startup challenges more than once. He previously founded Vianel, a line of bespoke leather wallets and accessories. Primarily an eCommerce brand, Vianel’s products have also been carried by select fine retailers around the world, including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Harvey Nichols, Holt Renfrew, Selfridges, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Today, Andrew Brooks is the CEO of Sinclair Global, a fast-growing line of streetwear that debuted in September 2020. With two apparel companies under his belt, he is well-positioned to identify changes in the business environment over the past five years.
Influencer Strategies and Selection
Specifically, Brooks emphasized consumers’ growing sophistication and desire for authenticity. “I think that right now the consumer is so transparent with the social media and everything like that, so they know exactly what’s going on. I think that it [the influencer strategy] has to be as organic as possible. You have to be friends with their group, to build a relationship, or it just looks fake,” he concluded.
When asked about selecting influencers for his brand, the Forbes-recognized Andrew Brooks stressed that the influencer must be aligned with the product. The influencer must also offer a window into a new audience.
“It’s all about new audiences. It also has to fit the certain product that you’re selling, because if you have a certain type of influencer who can’t sell an expensive item, it’s not worth it for you. You just have to build the right type of influencer for your products…or find them,” he remarked.
Andrew Brooks’ ability to cultivate relationships with celebrities and leverage those relationships via social media to build brands is a tactic that he mastered with Vianel. As the current CEO of Sinclair Global, Andrew Brooks continues to garner organic celebrity endorsements. Notable endorsements of Brooks’ brands have included Rihanna, Karl Lagerfeld, Gigi Hadid, Justin Bieber, Olivia Palermo, Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson, Drake, Lil Uzi, Offset, Quavo, and 50 Cent.
How Smaller Brands Build Influencer Relationships
Asked whether a smaller brand has an advantage in building influencer relationships, Andrew Brooks carefully weighed his answer. “Yes and no. I think financially no because you can’t offer them what the bigger companies can. But you can get closer to the team, you can build the products quicker for them…like customize a certain product for them so it gets to them.
“But there’s a barrier…certain companies can’t afford these big budgets for some of these influencers. So, you have to get creative…you have to work with their team…you have to figure out ways to make it work…it’s all relationships, I think.”
Brooks’ fellow New York City entrepreneur Miki Agrawal has certainly developed the fine art of low-cost (or free) creative promotion. Strapped for cash while launching her first business, she used bold, brash (and free) promotional tactics to draw media and consumers’ attention.
Trends in Brand-to-Consumer Communications
In today’s all-encompassing digital environment, maintaining good communications with a company’s consumers is the key to growth. Andrew Brooks recognizes the importance of targeted social media in accomplishing this overarching goal.
Brooks clearly and succinctly presented his opinion. “I think social media’s probably the best way, through Instagram, I think. I think that you get real-time with them, and they can give you answers immediately so you can act accordingly.” He noted that his company’s marketing and customer service operations both utilize this approach.
Emerging Retail Industry Trends
Looking ahead, Andrew Brooks touched on three increasingly important retail industry trends. First, he emphasized that retailers should utilize new technology to improve their core product offering.
Brooks also predicted the continued rise of the Direct-to-Consumer distribution channel. When asked what this market segment would look like in five years, he was quick to make a bold prediction. “It’s going to be bigger and bigger…I think it’s going to keep going and going.”
Finally, Andrew Brooks agreed with fellow panelists who affirmed the growing consumer focus on sustainable products and systems. In this regard, he echoes Miki Agrawal’s longtime emphasis on sustainability in both her personal and professional life.
Retailers who embrace the new sustainability paradigm will continue to gain prominence in the marketplace. Companies who do not make sustainability a priority should be prepared to lose ground to businesses who are better aligned with their markets.
Snapshot of NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show
The three-day NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show event took place from January 12-14, 2020 in New York City. Nearly 40,000 retail professionals gathered to share insights on the latest industry trends. Vendors filled the conference’s exhibit halls, and attendees enjoyed panel discussions and podcasts throughout the event.
Sunday, January 12
The NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show opened with industry leaders’ overview of emerging retail technologies. The executives also discussed the transformation of company culture.
Monday, January 13
The conference’s second day featured top-tier retailers’ dynamic CEOs who stand out in their field. Market-leading brands divulged their successful customer engagement secrets. Other speakers spotlighted women who are helping to transform the retail industry.
Tuesday, January 14
To begin the event’s final day, Erik Nordstrom showcased the ways in which Nordstrom meets its customers’ changing needs and shopping preferences. Other prominent retail industry leaders also delivered insights that attendees could apply to their own business operations.
About Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks serves as Chief Executive Officer of Sinclair Global, a fast-growing line of streetwear apparel with a broad appeal. Founded in September 2020, the Company markets unisex casual wear that carries the essence of New York City.
Prior to his Sinclair Global venture, Andrew Brooks created a line of custom leather accessories for the upscale market. His luxury goods market experience provided good preparation for his current endeavor.
Before his entry into New York’s apparel marketplace, Andrew Brooks gained business experience in the financial industry. He also attended the University of Miami, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.
Retailers Focus on Enhanced Customer Experiences
As the retail industry continues to move forward, new technology will enable many retailers to deliver higher-quality customer experiences. Integration of multiple communications channels, social media, and influencer marketing will help to drive this continued evolution. With demonstrated expertise in this highly competitive arena, Andrew Brooks is well-positioned for continued success.