Region/Countries: Canada, North America Industry: Manufacturing, Other Date: December 2018

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Companies that can provide retail analytics, predictive modeling, machine learning and artificial intelligence are in demand as the industry changes.

The Canadian retail clothing and accessories marketplace is highly competitive, with year-to-date sales for 2018 valued at $34.2 billion, a 4.6 percent increase from 2017. The industry continues to adapt and evolve as it attempts to better meet the needs and demands of Canadian consumers.

In 2018, a noticeable shift was identified in the industry within the sales and marketing channel and the distribution process. Insights gleaned from discussions with various industry professionals, sales agencies and representatives, and research conducted throughout the year found that an increasing number of brand manufacturers reevaluated their strategies and eliminated the go-between by selling direct-to-consumer and direct-to-client/retailer without the distributor or sales representative. With some brands, sales responsibility has been brought in-house instead of partnering with an agency or distributor, allowing for the brand to identify and evaluate key customers and control where their products will be available. Another trend is brands like Moose Knuckles, Canada Goose, and Arc'teryx opening a number of company-owned brick-and-mortar locations in key markets such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Some companies that started out as online retailers are moving to physical brick-and-mortar locations, and others are merging physical locations with online shopping. Another growing Canadian retail trend is pop-up shops for emerging brands to introduce and heighten awareness, reach new customers and sell products.

Studies have indicated that millennials are driving the consumer market and are extremely connected to their mobile devices, using smartphones to look up information to help make decisions before buying. Many choose to buy online, and they tend to be price-conscious, savvy shoppers. Social media strategies using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as partnering with influencers, are imperative to driving sales with this demographic.

The consumer experience continues to be of importance as retailers try to differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace. A customized innovative experience, whether in store or online, engages consumers with targeted, customized messages and personalized experiences, product recommendations, and promotions driving sales.

As retailers are seeking to understand their share of the market and how customers shop and buy, they are continuously adjusting how they do business. Predictions call for artificial intelligence to gain influence, with 85 percent of all transactions expected to be AI-based by 2020. With this prediction and the ways retail and consumer interests are changing, opportunities in the Canadian clothing marketplace and other retail segments exist in retail analytics, predictive modeling, machine learning and artificial intelligence to better predict customer behavior and generate customized, targeted messaging and product recommendations.