Korn Ferry Survey Points to Retailers’ Rosy Outlook for Coming Year


Anxious to put a tumultuous 2020 behind them, retailers are optimistic that they will experience a better sales year in 2021. That is according to a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers.

Eighty percent of retailers who sell essential goods such as groceries and hardware say they expect sales growth, with 20 percent saying they expect growth rates of 10 percent or more. More than half (54 percent) of non-essential retailers, such as gift and specialty clothing stores, also expect to see an increase in sales.

“Big-box grocery and home improvement stores saw a temporary surge in sales at the beginning of the pandemic, and many finished the year with double digit sales growth,” said Korn Ferry retail expert Craig Rowley. “This year retailers expect steady, ongoing increases as the vaccine becomes more readily available and more people return to their normal shopping habits.”

The survey also shows that the way people shop may shift permanently. Nearly half (43 percent) of retailers predict that at least 20 percent of their sales will be from online shoppers. This is increasing the need for distribution center workers, and 68 percent of respondents say they are having a difficult time filling those positions.

In terms of employee retention, more than three quarters (79 percent) of retailers say they are actually seeing a decrease in part-time store employee turnover.

“As the pandemic started, many retailers saw a downturn in store traffic as more customers changed to shopping online, and as a result, they reduced store staffing levels,” said Rowley. “Now, employees who kept their jobs are staying put.”

About the survey

The Korn Ferry survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers, with annual revenues between $50 million to more than $20 billion, took place in mid-January 2021.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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