The Changing Face of the Retail Space


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The increasing popularity of multichannel begs an interesting question – when will it stop? Will it just grow and grow until eventually we all shop through the computer? I’d say that’s unlikely. Or will there be a backlash and suddenly everybody will want to physically shop again? Again, unlikely. But I would imagine that the probable scenario here will be one where the shopping as we used to know it will morph gradually into an altogether more interesting and rewarding experience.

Current thinking is that a large percentage of the retail space nationwide will diminish. Retailers will keep what will effectively be showrooms, where customers can go to view collections having researched what they want online, looked at prices and eventually decide they want to feel that sofa / coat / sewing machine before they purchase it.
Sometimes I think about the futuristic images we used to study at school. Robots operate tills, the shopping experience is a faceless one… it’s not a million miles away from the ecommerce world we know now. But surely there must always be scope for A Trip To The Shops?

Some of our fondest girlie memories of yesteryear include days out shopping; chatting over the rails, stopping for coffee – or a wine-fuelled lunch that would lubricate the wallet – shopping some more. I think that this sort of shopping has always been less of a functional trip out, and far more an enjoyable pastime (especially if there is a special event to buy for). A way to spend quality time together.

And that’s the way I think retailing will go. We need a retail space as a destination – a leisure pursuit, and a way of occupying the family too. So there will be a greater emphasis placed on the art of Retail Theatre – customer service will go up a notch, there will be more to do and to capture our imaginations. Footfall will be enhanced by the emergence of more restaurants, and we’ll see the integration of entertainment alongside shopping – centres such as Westfield are already offering great examples of this, where we see far more space than ever before dedicated to the foodcourts and restaurants, keeping the shoppers under the one roof and maximising their spend across the day.

Shopping will evolve – just as retail always does – and become more of a day out. An experience. Of course, research into where to go before the event will always take place online but the long-standing favourite activity of “a spot of retail therapy” will always have a place in our hearts.

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