A Look at Retail’s Future

On the first day of ICSC's RECon 2018 in Las Vegas, panelists looked back at 25 years of retail and predicted what the next 25 might look like.

ICSC’s RECon 2018 in Las Vegas kicked off with Professional Development Day and panels and workshops focused on trends in retail. One of the first panels of the morning was an outlook on the next 25 years in retail with Charles Terry Shook, founding partner & principal at Shook Kelley, and Matthew Winn, founder of Win Winn Consulting.

Retail has changed a lot over the past 25 years. According to Winn, bigger stores were perceived as better, and pre-internet retailers were rewarded for store count. Now, e-commerce is accelerating store closures, and value stores are driving absorption. Developers need to make space convenient to make it relevant, Winn said. Additionally, developers are moving to downtown areas instead of just big cities. Outer-ring suburbs in smaller cities are developing with the city creating a greater urban sprawl.

Shook explained how today’s consumer is different from those in the past. Shoppers are now time challenged, culturally aware, message bombarded, energy stressed and experience hungry. According to Shook, all of this points to a future of omni-channel retailing. He explains that Amazon is doing excellent in the smile states and primarily coastal cities, but in the middle of the country, regular shopping centers are still performing well. The community center, according to Shook, is the nation’s most preferred format.

“The focus is shifting more and more toward branding,” Winn said, and shared examples of effective retailers creating an experience for customers, including Warby Parker, Kellogg’s and Ikea. According to Winn, we are moving from pure commerce to brand evangelism, and retailers need to find the interception of commerce and community.

And what should be done with old malls and failed anchors? Shook said bringing in some mixed-use concepts that integrate with the mall is key. “It’s not failed dirt, it’s a failed concept,” he said, and reiterated that it’s important to keep up with the 21st century. As Shook pointed out, the aging population is presenting new and interesting opportunities for retailers. Boomers don’t want to live in traditional retirement homes, and they are looking for new places with a live-work-play experience. People are already “reading the tea leaves” and developing to cater to this demographic.

The speakers closed the session with a quote: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Retail has fundamentally changed over the last 25 years, and it will continue to change over the next 25. It’s not only important to pay attention to what’s going on in the current market, but to also look ahead and prepare for the new opportunities that the future brings.