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It’s an exciting time to be in retail — as a brand, as a consumer, and for us as product writers. The Insider Picks team tested countless new products, learned the stories of many new startups, and followed the growth of dozens of our now-favorite companies.
A select few retail companies really impressed us in 2018, and for a variety of reasons — from superior product launches to admirable social initiatives with quantifiable impact.
They’re a standout representation of what it takes to succeed in retail today: the puzzle pieces of mission, product, branding, customer service, and other key business components fitting together to create a cohesive solution to the needs and wants of consumers.
Learn more about the all-stars of 2018 retail below. Everlane
Everlane has much to celebrate this year, including the opening of its first brick-and-mortar stores, which were welcomed with open arms in San Francisco and New York; stellar product drops like basic but comfortable underwear, the soft leather flats we can’t stop talking about, and an outerwear collection made from recycled plastic water bottles; and another successful anti-Black Friday initiative that sent $260,000 to help fund beach cleanups across the country.
The brand impressed us throughout the year for its continued commitment to ethical, transparent manufacturing practices and almost-eerie grasp of the styles customers crave — and how to fill the gaps with its own minimalist, carefully curated take.
It’s not just you — we’ve been seeing a lot more Dagne Dover bags in the streets of urban jungles, too. This might be because of its increased but carefully managed offline presence in select Nordstrom stores, Equinox boutiques, and BANDIER shops, or confident push into styles and textures you wouldn’t expect from a women’s work bag company.
Whether it’s a work tote, gym and travel bag, or laptop bag, the women of Insider Picks have agreed that Dagne Dover hits it out of the park every single time with a consistent track record that’s not always easy for experimental startups to achieve.
More so it seems than other clothing industries, outdoor brands share a special connection with the environments they design for. With the push into recycled materials like down and cashmere, and the no-hesitation decision to send its $10 million 2018 tax cut to grassroots environmental activist groups, Patagonia ramped up its efforts to protect the outdoors.
The ubiquity of its vests and sweaters might inspire joke Instagram accounts, but at least they’re the products of a highly-rated B Corp with a conscience. In February, it launched Patagonia Action Works to connect individuals to events, petitions, and organizations they might be interested in, and on Election Day, stores across the country closed as a reminder for citizens to vote.
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