2020 - much like 1999 must have seemed back when Prince wrote his chart-topping (and now ultra-retro) hit, this big date has loomed in the public consciousness for some time. And now suddenly it's close enough that your 'short-term' business plans might feature this date writ large.
But fear not! We popped across to the Retail Design Expo at good old Olympia in London to catch some of the most forward-looking creative bods in the business sharing their insights on what the shopping experience of 2020 might entail, and even more importantly, what it might look like (not that we're superficial or anything).
Panel: Predictions For Retail Design In 2020 - Wednesday, March 9th 2016, 15:30 - 16:10.
Hosted by Tim Greenhalgh from Fitch and featuring Jim Thompson, MD of the aptly-named 20.20, Richard Ash, CEO and Founder of Greenroom, and Andy Turnbull, Global Creative Principal for New Look, this was 40 full-on minutes of retail prognostication. Tune in your crystal balls folks, it's about to get (semi) futuristic in here...
It's not floor space, it's a canvas
The high street store is about to get a lot more flexible according to our expert panel. The days of fixed interiors are drawing to a bolt-cutting close with stores embracing a second life as a social hub for customers. Citing examples such as the Nike store in London who host events, along with an increasingly popular (not to mention occasionally top-athlete-led) running club. Spaces are going to need to be multi-functional and easily transformable to make the most of that increasingly-expensive square footage.
And more than this, shops should be able to evolve to create a new and exciting environment for customers to explore and to showcase the latest products and marketing campaigns. Think of it like turning every store into a pocket-sized department store. Shoppers will never be bored again! Speaking of department stores...
Gen Z and the department store = a match made in retail heaven
Gen Z are the boys and girls currently just starting to flex their purchasing power as they move into their early twenties and jump on the job ladder. Described (possibly a tad unkindly) as being in a 'state of perpetual distraction' this generation live on social media, use it to shop aspirationally (digital scrap-booking if you will), want quick access to everything, dynamic shopping experiences, flexible delivery, and they love service but hate being bothered in store.
In short the department store layout, with its themed collections, easily updatable displays and obvious places to go if you want a hand, are their shopping meccas. Add in services such as 'click and collect' and you'll reel them in.
Shops without stock
You can't be all things to all people (though some retailers will try), so maybe you should stop worrying about not having enough of that popular item in stock and embrace the idea of the 'experience' store.
Scrap the stock room and fill each valuable square-inch with brand defining, eye-catching and engaging stuff that will make your shop a 'must visit'. Yes you'll have samples that your potential customers can pick up and try out, but this concept is all about taking those great products out of the display case or off the rack and helping your clients envision them as a part of their lifestyle. If they want it they can then order it in store to be awaiting them on their return home. Who wants to carry shopping home these days anyway right?