Top 10 of 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly that made our year
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Posted December 11, 2012

10. Sour Apple
With mapping software that gives bad directions, management shakeups that include the exit of your new retail chief and ongoing legal battles with Samsung over patent claims, it’s hard not to think Apple’s ready for 2012 to be over. “It’s been interesting to see them lose their iconic face and simultaneously have ‘incremental’ product releases but nothing that has been seen as a game changer,” says Robyn Novak of FRCH Design Worldwide.

9. Holiday (Mis)Tidings
Just in time for the holidays, mass merchant Target and luxury retailer Neiman Marcus tried to prove they weren’t strange bedfellows by unveiling a holiday collection from 24 well-known designers. Barneys New York stole headlines when it was revealed that Minnie Mouse and her Disney friends would be resized into runway model proportions for its Electric Holiday window display. Remember, Santa Claus – and consumers – are watching!

8. Fading Dreams
Kicking off the year with a new logo and bold (Target-like) marketing collateral, JCPenney’s reinvention plans started to fall flat when its fleet of outdated stores didn’t get a makeover until fall. Other lows – the company was sued by New York-based Hudson + Broad Inc. for breach of contract and president Michael Francis left after only eight months on the job.

7. Lovin’ It
The king of fast food marked the year by trying to reinvent itself with a new McDonald’s restaurant experience that encourages guests to linger, relax and slow down. “Reinvention with upscale comfort was a wonderful idea,” says Aaron Birney of Gensler. “The long-term durability of the new furnishings leaves the fast-casual market with something to strive for.”

6. The Year of London
From the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was a busy year for England’s capital city. But athletes weren’t the only ones breaking records: The Summer Games are being credited with helping Britain break free of a nine-month recession, thanks in part to retailers rolling out entertaining window displays, trinkets and souvenirs everywhere.

5. Bad Connection
Struggling electronics retailer Best Buy entertained a purchase offer from its founder and hired a new ceo who hails from the hospitality industry, leaving some to wonder about the chain’s long-term viability. “Best Buy has to totally reinvent what it means to be a consumer electronics retailer. It doesn’t have much to offer if the old founder takes over and approaches the business (even with a new leader) the same way,” says Sharon Lessard of SuperValu.

4. Elephant in the Room
A decade ago, it was Walmart; now Amazon is the one to watch. Poised to become the world's largest retailer within a decade, the online behemoth's growing inventory, low prices, free returns and fast delivery have bricks-and-mortars on edge and looking for a counter-attack. "There's an expression going around from retailers called 'ACDT,' or 'Amazon Can't Do This,'" says Lee Peterson of WD Partners. "Because if you're not thinking about that, you're about to be blindsided by them."

3. The Waiting Game
New Yorkers celebrated the news that luxury department store chain Nordstrom is finally coming to the Big Apple ... in 2018. After a decades-long search for the right real estate, Nordstrom plans to open its doors on West 57th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Indeed, patience is a virtue.

2. Fresh Squeeze
Coffee, tea ... or juice, anyone? Starbucks proved it’s not resting on its coffee shop laurels by introducing Evolution Fresh stores, bringing handcrafted juices and globally inspired bites to the West Coast. “It’s a great example of staying core to who you are as a brand but evolving in new and dynamic ways to stay relevant,” says Leonard Barszap of Lippincott.

1. Unigrow
Japanese retailer Uniqlo has big plans for North America – 20-30 new stores per year and $10 billion in sales by 2020 – on its quest to become the world’s top retailer. This year, it also launched e-commerce in the U.S., opened its first West Coast flagship and unveiled a new multi-brand concept in Europe called Uniqlo Marché. Smart retailers should be shaking in their Burberry boots.