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What the 2021 Holiday Sales Numbers Mean for Robotics

By Team InOrbit

Despite a litany of forces working against them, American consumers spent a record amount of money during the 2021 holiday season. Shaking off supply chain woes, inflation concerns and a surge in Covid cases like a Taylor Swift song, consumers not only returned to physical stores but continued to shop online for their holiday gifts.

During the November-December holiday season, retail sales grew 14.1% over 2020 to $886.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). This not only beat the NRF’s forecast, but set new records for the industry. Online and non-physical store sales were also up 11.3%, reaching $218.9 billion.

The NRF said it expects further growth for 2022, even with challenges presented by COVID, the supply chain, labor force issues and persistent inflation.

While this is great news for retailers and makers of products, it comes with the realization that the demand for goods isn’t going away. The continued growth of online shopping and fast delivery expectations will continue to put pressure on retailers, supply chain professionals and third-party logistics providers. Anyone thinking that the world would return to a pre-COVID atmosphere in terms of brick-and-mortar stores, slowly growing e-commerce channels and a plentiful supply of workers are in for a rude awakening. All of these concepts have long departed, leaving companies with an urgent need to find ways to address labor shortages, a broken supply chain, cost pressures and increasing expectations from consumers on getting their orders delivered in days, if not hours.

Hopefully, retailers will realize that robotics and automation can address many of these issues, and we’ll see the continued growth of robotics deployments in retail over the next few years. Organizations need to understand however, that there will be challenges to face with robotic deployments. It’s not as simple as pushing a power button and having robots perform their retail tasks. Robots will need to be monitored, maintained and orchestrated to provide optimized performance that can help augment human workers to achieve tasks such as e-commerce order fulfillment, materials movement, inventory management, cleaning, disinfection, and more. Companies that move to integrate and then respond quickly to these robot challenges will succeed faster and keep their customers happier.

InOrbit has several resources available for companies looking to explore these challenges and find solutions. We encourage you to explore:

To learn more about how InOrbit can help robot manufacturers, retailers and other enterprises quickly scale and optimize the value of robot fleets, connect us for a demo.