Welcome to Retail Week’s inaugural The Uptick newsletter. The Uptick has been designed to give you a fresh perspective on the sector as we seek out the stories, people, innovation and inspiration that makes retail such a vibrant place to be.

We offer an alternative to the doom and gloom that too often surrounds retail and instead focus on the ingenuity of a sector that is rapidly transforming. The Uptick will hone in on real solutions to some of retail’s biggest challenges.

This month we’re bringing you inspiration from some of New York’s most interesting brands and stores; a new approach to shopping by putting the emphasis less on the ‘shop’ and more on the community; a look at the top growth areas for 2019; a deep dive into the future of fashion; and how one town defied all the naysayers to turn itself into high street of the year.

If you can make it there…

So, to New York. If ever there was an advert for how to create a compelling offline shopping experience for customers then New York would be right up there. Take Nike’s House of Innovation store.

Nike aims to capture both physical and digital in one store and while many have tried and failed at this, the sports giant seems to have created a winner. While the merits of investing in a retail app and the likelihood of shoppers downloading and using it are often debated, Nike has made it a no-brainer.

It uses data from its mobile app users in a variety ways, ranging from selecting stock to speeding up checkout. So while you don’t need to download the app to shop there, it makes it very worthwhile and almost irresistible to do so.

Other great stores that break the mould in NYC include cult beauty brand Glossier, which, according to founder Emily Weiss, now generates more sales per square foot than the average Apple store. Well worth a look.

Closer to home, we also liked Ikea’s new Greenwich flagship, its first big-box London store opening in a decade. Interestingly the store doesn’t place the emphasis on ‘shopping’. Of course it wants customers to buy its goods, but its strapline is ‘meet, share, learn and shop’ – a focus on community and sustainability that it believes is the future.

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While the current economic climate continues to darken our skies, retailers are looking for the growth areas of 2019. Those savvy enough to tap into the trends will benefit, whatever the economic backdrop. In this piece, we say goodbye to gluten and hello to CBD oil as Retail Week delves into what the hot retail growth categories for the year ahead are likely to be.

Looking beyond 2019, what does the future hold for fashion? Our long read exploring the subject delves into the shifting marketing dynamics and technology that will change how clothes are designed and how we find, buy and wear them in years to come.

And hot off the press from last week’s Retail Week Awards, take a look at the game-changing initiatives pioneered by some of the sector’s most influential leaders and shortlisted for the inaugural Retail Activist Award.

The competition was stiff, from Tesco boss Dave Lewis’ commitment to stamp out food waste at the grocer to Selfridges’ deputy chair Alannah Weston’s pioneering work on sustainability for Project Ocean.

But on the night the hotly contested prize was awarded to the thoroughly deserving Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold for her tireless work on gender equality in retail.

Gold brought her daughter with her to pick up her prize so she could see successful and inclusive female leadership being awarded – a powerful example of her work as a retail boss who walks the walk just as much as she talks the talk.

One last thing…

You wouldn’t need to look for long to find negative stories about the decline of local high streets, but this piece about how Altrincham and Stockton have refused to accept the status quo of the tertiary town’s retail demise is a welcome tonic.

From councils investing in and championing transformation, to reclaiming market town heritage, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt about how to inject life back in town centres.

As Stockton council chief executive Neil Schneider says: “You can’t just replicate and clone what other high streets have done. You’ve got to find your heart and soul.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed our first The Uptick newsletter. If there are stories, innovations, people or inspiration you want to us to report on, please get in touch.

Grace Bowden, head of content