The Holidays are Here

Retail enters a brave new world
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Posted December 11, 2019

The holidays are upon us, as is the end of the decade, and it’s reasonable to say that there have been a few changes since 2010.

For starters, shops still exist. Yes, real shops, ones that people go into, rather than accessing via a few keystrokes. Admittedly the nature of what the shopper sees when entering a store these days has changed a bit over the period. There are in fact fewer screens in most European stores than there were back then when it was still thought that shoppers would fall over themselves in gratitude at the chance to use a keyboard in a shop in exactly the same way as they did back home.

As it transpired, it was the decade of the mobile device and slowly, but pretty surely, screens were on the decline as retailers realized that the device carried by most consumers was much more powerful and regularly updated than anything they were likely to install inside their branches. Practically, this has meant that as we head into the third decade of the 21st century shops have become more like, well, shops – places where shoppers admire merchandise and the manner in which it is displayed. Technology has finally become a means to an end.

And alongside this has been the rise of the experience store, with outposts from Adidas and Samsung in London claiming not to be places you go to buy stuff, but rather where you can get up close and personal with the brand … prior to making a purchase, later on.

The real question, however, is what will the next 10 years bring? There have been more changes in the past decade than in the two or three that preceded it. Does this mean the final reconciliation of the real and virtual retail worlds? Have they now parleyed and found themselves on civilized talking terms?

Probably not. The big tech giants are hungry and while there may be a measure of equilibrium currently being reached, it seems probable that by 2030 we will look back and think that things weren’t all that in 2020. Brace yourselves.

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.