BRR was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion at MetroWire Media’s Destination:Retail Summit, which focused on the ideas, technology, and customer and store experiences driving the evolution of today’s retail market. Much like retail experiences today, the group of panelists was a curated selection of local designers, developers and engineers, and included Rod Finkle from MFEC, Mike Kress from Generator Studio, Matthew Hufft from Hufft Projects, Gwen Locher from Lane4, and our Director of Interiors Megan Whitman. Dave Claflin from Legacy Development served as the panel’s moderator.
The conversation covered multiple topics, from the impact of transportation services, to experiential retail. We took away a few key points from the panelists and their varied experience – here’s our recap.
The rapid disruption in retail is full of opportunities. We’ve all heard the doom and gloom headlines about the future of retail, and speculation that the physical retail market will eventually disappear. A tough realization is that the U.S. may have too much, which helps explain some of the major closings or reductions we’ve seen from well-established retailers. For decades, we’ve been in a steady cycle of building, and the rapid changes in technology have forced those in the industry to reassess their approach and adapt to changes. Those who have adapted are doing well, and greater desires for food, entertainment, and unique experiences have opened many new opportunities for creative and entrepreneurial retailers.
Authenticity is king (for now, at least). There’s a reason that adjectives like ‘curated’ and ‘authentic’ are buzzwords right now – it’s what everyone wants in retail. Designers have been tasked with using the qualities that make retail brands unqiue to create authentic experiences that consumers want to share. There’s multiple ways to define an authentic experience, as the panel shared, but elements like experiential environments, high-end finishes, hyper-local graphics and store themes, and indirect lighting are a few ways this approach is taking life in the retail market.
The anchor is changing. Big-box retailers and department stores used to be the primary retail development anchors, but the lineup has been changing over the last decade. Viable anchors that we see driving development now include hospitals, college campuses, apartment complexes, etc. While these facilities many not always have an immediate adjacency to a retail development, they are forces for driving consumer traffic.
What’s the plan if parking is no longer a problem? With services like Uber and Lyft, and the potential for mass-market self-driving cars, finding a parking spot at the mall on Saturday could cease to be an annoyance. There’s a lot of unknown around the transportation market, but it’s changing as fast (or maybe faster) as the retail market. One thing that is certain, if we reach a point where we don’t need massive lots or multi-story parking decks, there will be thousands of high-profile corners and structures in key neighborhoods that will need to be repurposed.
Technology is not synonymous for convenience. There’s no arguing that technology has made our lives more convenient, especially when it comes to making purchases. But technology has never been a direct synonym for convenience. Convenience in today’s retail market seems to be a combined definition of making quick and educated purchases. One scenario cited by the panel was this: for things like toilet paper and laundry soap, where we know exactly what we need or want to buy, online purchasing is almost always the quickest and easiest route. But for the items in our life that warrant a little bit of research or an expert opinion, like a television or running shoes, shopping in-store and talking through your purchase with an “expert” tends to be the more time-effective option. Which also goes to show that, as much as we may think online could replace brick and mortar, the physical retail environment will always provide something that online can’t – human connection.
Photos are courtesy of Jacia Phillips for MetroWire Media, and used with permission from MetroWire Media. For more photos, visit MetroWire Media’s Facebook page.