Düsseldorf: A Retreat from Digital

The triennial trade show went back to the basics
Posted February 20, 2020

EuroShop in Düsseldorf has come, been and gone, and we’ll not see it’s like for another three years, when the bars of the city’s altstadt (a.k.a., the world’s longest bar) will be filled once more with those relaxing after the search for new fixtures, solutions and perhaps inspiration for their stores back home.

This is a truly global event and one that even the Coronavirus did not manage to put too severe a dent in (although it is fair to remark that the number of Chinese exhibitors was thinner on the ground than in previous years, principally because they were not allowed to leave the country owing to quarantines).

And one of the questions that is always asked about events of this kind is: What did you think of it? Well, the answer from your correspondent’s perspective is that EuroShop 2020 was a case of “back to the future.” This is an enormous show (covering around 1.4 million square feet across many, many aircraft hangers) and it’s always hard to gauge the totality simply because of the enormity of the task facing anybody determined to see everything.

But even the most cursory stroll through the stands was enough to convince that screens in stores looked to be thinner on the ground than last time around. It’s a bit like the Burberry store on London’s Regent Street. When it opened in 2012, this was a screentastic interior; the things were everywhere. More than half a decade later, most of them were removed on the basis that shoppers go to shops to shop, not to look at screens.

Something of the kind prevailed at EuroShop. Yes, there is still plenty of tech, but it’s mostly for back office stuff. The shopper facing-screen looks increasingly like an expensive lost cause and many suppliers seemed to be aware of this. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the store of the future may well seem like the store of yesteryear, except that behind-the-scenes tech will ensure that everything works a little better and is more convenient.

The retreat from digital may not sum up EuroShop 2020 in total, but for shoppers, it is not far off the mark.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.