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New Beginnings

Editor’s Note – December 2020

This year will go down in history as the one from H-E-double-hockey-sticks! Disease, death and despair played on repeat, a dystopian drumbeat drowning out what little hope and happiness there might have been. Riots, protests, wildfires and a contentious election (that doesn’t seem to end) only added to the morose soundtrack that is 2020. But as we listen to the album’s final track, there’s at least hope for a better 2021—starting with a couple of breakthrough vaccines. That’s music to the world’s ears, and they can’t arrive fast enough.

In the meantime, social distancing, wearing masks and adapting business on the fly remains the status quo. Reduced occupancies, curbside pickups, home deliveries and complete pivots to online shopping should be old hat by now, and from what Earnshaw’s has reported extensively on over the course of the past year our industry has risen to meet the unprecedented challenges. Has it been seamless? Not by a longshot. Have there been casualties? Way too many. But we are an industry of survivors.

Whoever thought Carter’s would be kicking off the holidays with an alternative to Santa visits using Cameo? Or that nearly every trade show would be held virtually from March onward? Or that many brick-and-mortars would successfully launch ecommerce sites in mere weeks when before it seemed it would take months or even years? We’ve adapted, pivoted and found ways to move forward.   

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and indeed that has been the case in our industry. Many of these changes will likely remain in use beyond this pandemic—like fully functional online shopping portals with secure, user-friendly and personalized ecommerce features. Imagine the power of “souped up” online purchasing channels coupled with safe and entertaining in-store experiences. Our industry will emerge smarter, savvier and stronger.

On that note, this issue is dedicated to successful survivors, notably this year’s Earnie Award winners for design excellence. From cover to cover, you will learn what each winning company did to thrive against all odds. New communication tools and distribution strategies along with quarantine-friendly creations and developing strong partnerships are common threads among our winners, but each has its own unique formula to success. An added bonus: execs reveal behind-the-scenes inspirations and indulgences that helped get them through this trying year. (Turns out Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were quite popular this spring!) You’ll also find lots of great advice for heading into 2021 and beyond, starting with sustainability being a nearly unanimous focus for the new year.

As for retailers and reps who went above and beyond in 2020, we’ve amassed so many amazing suggestions that we’re dedicating our January/February 2021 issue to highlighting these stars. We’ll also dig deeper into the new tools and technologies necessary for success in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Our “Strategy Issue” will not only include thought-provoking content, it will be presented in an entirely new format. Get ready for a state-of-the-art platform that takes digital storytelling to the next level. Interactive ads, embedded videos and shoppable products are just a few of the many immersive elements that will elevate the Earnshaw’s experience! I welcome you to schedule a demonstration with our publisher Noelle Heffernan. She is offering private virtual tours of our magazine’s new capabilities and happy to answer any questions. The future is bright.

With that, I wish you all a safe and successful holiday season and a very prosperous new year!

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