I started 2015 by attending and event about a subject near and dear to those of us intimately involved with the retail trade. Namely, “Marketing Trends for 2015,” a worthwhile presentation sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, and given by Maurisa Potts, CEO and Founder of Spotted MP Marketing and PR. I left thinking that voluminous amounts of available market data make it possible to predict future buying habits of the American public and even help define a narrative about their expectations in terms of both on and offline shopping environments. Knowing how those shopping environments will end up looking is something else entirely.
Jeff Green writing in Chain Store Age summarizes events of 2014, saying that retailers are being squeezed by rising real estate costs, increases in the minimum wage, and online shopping. Furthermore, the last of these leads to value shopping and, at least partially, defines the challenge of 2015, which is for a retailer to successfully optimize sales over all distribution channels. A tall order, addressed to the extent possible by author and “Retail Prophet,” Doug Stephens when he tells us 2015 will find retailers thinking of their sales force as either highly skilled brand ambassadors or clerical type order processors. There will be no room for mediocrity as it applies to, not only product, but also staff and the physical environment. New “brick and mortar” stores will be seen as places of collaboration, customization, and experience. I have found some of this to be underway for awhile. Certainly creating an “experience” focused shopping environment aimed at a target market has been an emerging store planning goal for at least 2014 and probably beyond. Stephens says the trend is being further fueled by tech and media savvy shoppers with an insatiable appetite for something new and translating in a tendency toward shorter leases and popup shops, even to the extent that Stephens referred to future mall managers as curators. As a retail architect I see this manifesting in specialization and variety and suggest a degree of caution, as straddling the line between new and passe is timeless, always a goal, not often accomplished.