The 10 most innovative retail companies of 2020

This year’s honorees include Shopify, CaaStle, ThredUp, Warby Parker, and Food52.

The 10 most innovative retail companies of 2020

In an industry dominated by Amazon, Shopify has been arming the rebels and providing direct-to-consumer brands the tools they need to not just sell their goods online but also get them to customers more quickly. Clothing-as-a-service pioneer CaaStle and secondhand marketplace ThredUp are part of a growing coterie of companies that are challenging the assumption that new is always better when it comes to buying clothes. Elsewhere on our list of the top 10 companies in retail are Warby Parker, which has expanded beyond frames, and GOAT, which has expanded into China. Food52 and the Inside, meanwhile, prove that some of the best retail strategies revolve around seeking feedback from customers.


1. Shopify

For empowering more than a million direct-to-consumer brands—and amplifying their network effect

The company now has a million direct-to-consumer brands using its e-commerce platform, and it just launched Shopify Fulfillment Network, which will handle merchant’s logistics, allowing them to compete with Amazon’s two-day shipping.

Read more about why Shopify is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020. 


2. CaaStle

For transforming fashion labels into rental services

The company now has 14 stores and brands—including American Eagle, Scotch & Soda, Banana Republic, and Bloomingdale’s—all using its rental infrastructure, which involves everything from warehousing to shipping to gathering feedback from customers. In 2020, it rolled out CaaStle-powered pop-ups at Express brick-and-mortar stores to introduce customers to the brand’s rental offering.

Read more about why CaaStle is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020. 


3. ThredUp

For amassing the world’s largest thrift store

The company, which now receives 100,000 clothes and shoes each day from would-be sellers, processed its 100 millionth item last year. It has created special secondhand sections at dozens of JCPenney and Macy’s department stores and partnered with Reformation, Christy Dawn, and Amour Vert to collect secondhand clothes in exchange for credit at the brands.

Read more about why ThredUp is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020. 


4. Warby Parker

For seeing beyond frames and launching contact lenses

The direct-to-consumer eyewear brand recently launched Scout, its own line of contact lenses, and will sell other contact brands as well. Along with its in-store eye exams, Warby Parker is quickly replacing a visit to your optician.


For using mobile to tap into China’s burgeoning sneakerhead culture


The sneaker resale startup created a localized app and WeChat program for China, its top international market. It also opened facilities in Shanghai and Hong Kong to support operations in the Asia Pacific region.

6. Etsy

For offsetting 100% of carbon emissions from product shipping 

In 2019, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods announced that it would cover the cost of offsetting climate change caused by transporting packages purchased through Etsy—and the rest of the e-commerce industry in the United States.


7. The Inside

For making customized furniture accessible to all

The brand uses digital fabric-printing technology that allows customers to customize everything from sofas to beds in bold, maximalist prints. Last year, it launched tabletop decor, to let customers design tablescapes with customized napkins and tablecloths.

8. Neighborhood Goods

For building the department store of the future


The retail concept, which first launched in Plano, Texas, and later opened a location in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, gives brands the opportunity to create immersive pop-ups with a lot of flexibility about the duration and use of the space.

9. Faire

For connecting craftspeople with thousands of Main Street shops

The wholesale marketplace helps 50,000 small, independent shops discover interesting new products created by 7,000 makers around the world, and it generates $1 million in sales every day on its platform. In 2019, Faire received a $1 billion valuation thanks to a Series D funding round led by Lightspeed Ventures and Founders Fund.


10. Food52

For creating a cookware line by codesigning with the foodie community

Food52 began as a blog for home cooks to trade recipes and has slowly grown over the last decade to include 13 million followers along with an online shop that curates cooking tools and tableware. In 2019, the brand began designing and selling its own kitchen products based on the detailed feedback of 25,000 members of the community.

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