Revived after the slump, business once again looks optimistically into the future. Yet if you want to invest today, you don’t just want to know what will be in demand tomorrow. New shopfitting – be it store construction or new technology – is often a capital investment for the next ten, fifteen years. So what will commerce look like in the year 2020? We take a closer look at several important developments.
Some trends are already highly debated: Society is getting ever older, green awareness is increasing, national wealth is distributed more unequally and the middle class is shrinking. But which will define the future? One thing is for sure: There is not just one, all- dominant mega trend. And not everything in the next ten years is predictable – just like it was in the previous ten years. September 11, 2001, the day of the attack on the World Trade Center, has become a pivotal event in the awareness of many people. Futurologists even believed afterwards to have noticed a trend toward domesticity, a return to the familiar and family life. Whether the smoking rubble in New York was the leading cause for this though is hard to make out.
The weather and events influence customers
At the end of the eighties, US researchers talked about ”cocooning“. People would cocoon themselves at their homes and enhance their living space. You can read in Wikipedia that this type of attitude towards life was already around before under the term of ”cozy home“. And so you can infer from all this, that although trend scouting is a seismometer for possible future developments, it is not a definite predictor of the future.
A cold winter, a rainy summer, the euphoria about the Soccer World Cup – all this can increase sales volumes or get in the way of it. If Germany is successful in its bid for the Olympic Games in 2018, business will anticipate the topic a long time before then, just like London does for 2012. Umbrella or suntan lotion? Retail best needs to pay close attention to short notice events as well as long-term social changes.
Older target groups with a lot of buying power
Businesses need to adapt to the needs of older people. Although it is often talked about, it still is not a reality everywhere in retail. Wide aisles, good lighting and larger signs do not just provide a good overview for older people. This is important, since stores targeted toward senior citizens have a hard time, because after all we all want to get older, but nobody wants to be considered being old. Older people are turning into an ever important target group, because they have more buying power than ever before in European history. Admittedly, this wealth is very unequally distributed: Tourism for luxury cruises is booming and so are low-cost soup kitchens for the poor.
Ecology in retail – the longing for home
Green has been booming in business for many years now. In 2010 green supermarkets, like for instance Rewe in Berlin or Spar in Austria made headlines. Buildings like these are built and operated as CO2-neutral as possible. LED lighting is meant to reduce electricity costs. In Supply Chain Management new ways for logistics are being discussed, from a container ship with sail propulsion all the way to alternatives in City Logistics. The cooling chain is becoming more environmentally conscious with new coolant solutions and cooling trucks with alternative actuation.
Whole food products even made it onto the shelves of discounters across the board. Yet retailers will need to invest in the trust of consumers. If anything, the multitude of organic logos is causing confusion. New technology could help retailers to better document the supply chain. By means of RFID, you could trace back individual batches and quickly withdraw them from circulation during product recalls.
Internet and superstores put pressure on small and medium-sized businesses
Consumers develop an ever increasing desire for local sources – and against pan-European truck- and global container transportation. This creates new possibilities for local merchants who are specialized and offer great service. But this is also not selling itself, because the Internet is becoming a global shopping center. Prices are easier to compare. Already specialty retailers complain about “consulting theft“ of people, who come into the store, seek detailed advice – but then proceed to buy on the Web.
Many communities are faced with the extinction of their city centers, because politicians in the nineties paved the way for new, large industrial parks with their greenfield strategies.
New shopping centers with large trading areas and giant home improvement centers, which pull the rug from under the feet of long-established family businesses, sprung up like mushrooms all over Europe. Cities set trends with their flagship stores and brand name shops. The leading European trade fairs EuroCIS and EuroShop also set trends.
René Schellbach, EuroShop.de