This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where it’s headed.
The following is from an interview with Marina Strauss, Writer and former retailing reporter at The Globe and Mail
**This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
MS: The retail industry is evolving quickly, creating new concepts that merge the digital and bricks-and-mortar world. And we are seeing this in some traditional retailers, such as Lululemon Athletica, as well as some startups, including subscription services. The weak players are learning that they need to improve or they will be crushed. And the strong players are increasingly getting stronger, using new technology to reduce costs and enable the retailers to invest more in a compelling experience for the consumer.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
MS: The most dramatic change in retail over the past three to five years has been the shift not only to online shopping but also to online browsing. That shift is often eliminating the need to browse in a mall or street-front stores. Instead, shoppers can purchase online or just head to one store where they can buy what they want. Or they might try one or two other competitors, but not spend much time in a mall or looking at other stores. As a result, store traffic will increasingly decline and, along with that, sales.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
MS: I see much fewer brick-and-mortar stores in the next three to five years, perhaps half as many in five years. And stores generally will be smaller and more like art galleries, featuring key items with access to order the products online from the physical store – or, more often, from one’s own mobile device. And retailers will use stores to mount entertaining displays and shows to lure consumers. Even so, brick-and-mortar retail will take a back seat to e-commerce as retailers will need to respond to the growing threat of health epidemics. Retailers will find more effective ways to deliver e-commerce orders to various neighborhoods, cutting down multiple trips to one destination for different orders. There also will be more community depots to pick up orders, some of them at physical stores.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
MS: There will be much more use of AI and robots of all kinds to do manual and repetitive jobs. And this same technology will be available to corporate head offices to do a lot of the administrative work. This will results in many fewer retail jobs, even in distribution centers for e-commerce. Deliveries will become more automated and efficient, with eventually automated delivery vehicles.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
MS: The future of brick and mortar retail is a considerably shrunken one, but vastly more interesting and entertaining than today’s mostly predictable and dull retail.