Be afraid…be very afraid….or not ?

Is this the future of retailing ?(click on link below)

Or is it this….

Or even this…

The first is a ‘staff’ free convenience store ,being developed, in China  . The second is vein (yes, as in ‘blood’) scanning under trial at Costcutter. And the third is a 17th century book shop in Canterbury. No , I don’t think so. Or rather they will be only a part of the future of retailing . Apart from not be able to build anymore 17th century shops, as I am sure loads of high street would want one, change is so rapid within retail it is not easy to see where it is going .

Visualising the air space just above your home stuffed full of drones delivering all manner of items, is not that comfortable. Online shopping, after twenty years, still under 20%.

Apart from the UK and Germany, market shares were comparatively low in many European countries. In 2015, the average online share of the European countries surveyed was 7.0%, 8.0% in 2016 and is expected to reach 8.8% in 2017. Figure 1 shows the UK online share was 16.8% in 2016 and is forecast to be 17.8% in 2017 (in 2010 it was around 9.4%). The countries with the highest online shares of their internal markets are: the UK (17.8% forecast for 2017)..

It would be naive to suggest that this will not continue to grow but it would also be naive to suggest that it will wipe out the High Street store.

The three examples have their own usp’s that should help reinvigorate the high street environment.

China Store 

The main benefits accrued are cost

Vein scanning

Security, convenience and cost saving

Canterbury book store

Environment, experience and expertise 

Quick puzzle….what do the first and last, potentially, have in common? Answer: they could both use the same technology as in the second .

Whilst knowing that the consumer is looking at spending more on experiences over and above product, they will still need to buy ‘product’. New shopping centres are adding more eating places, cinemas, casinos…..attracting the experience spend. Without the shops they cease to be shopping centres. Which may happen.  If it did some of the consumer spend will revert back to the High Street . 

Now here is my next theory. Within five maybe ten years, the best online operators will have reached their maturity , operationally and  consumer acceptance. Assuming they can all deliver a nano second after you order, even if you live in the Scottish Highlands, what would be the main point of difference amongst them ? They will all be selling the same stuff, they will have accumulated similar amounts of data analysing their target consumer, which surely only leaves price. If this happens then I can see that the creative retail entrepreneur will start to look at alternatives . I can see this alternative being a very different yet exciting High Street retail environment.

I have always welcomed and embraced  change (most of it). Retailing is going through, perhaps, its biggest change since the advent of the supermarket. There has been much pain, and there is pain to come. Yet I believe there will be a complete regeneration. Those who fear change tend to harp back to the ‘good old days’. A time when there was widespread discrimination of every type, women knew their place, housing with no inside toilets, awful pub food, rubbish coffee, sliced tasteless white bread, black and white tv,smog , only able to take fifty quid when you went abroad on holiday. Oh! and less I forget the ability to drive without worrying about drinking, no awareness of domestic abuse….ignorance was bliss…….‘Bloody ‘ell life wer’ great’.

We have a penchant for nostalgia, especially when society is undergoing much change . We can refer to the retail market to look for examples, the recent surge in demand for vinyl LPs(when many of those buyers don’t have turntables) , increase in the sale of printed books and old style confection . Traditional shopping has a future, I do not believe traditional retailing has .

Some of the very big high street retail fish in the U.K. market place have many problems. Much of which is embedded with the company culture and infrastructure. They are the ones who should be  really afraid.

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