Tuesday 12 December 2017

Coming to a shop near you – the changing face of retail

Opening in 2016 - a 'Farmer's Market Foodstore'? Photo: Thinkstock
Opening in 2016 - a 'Farmer's Market Foodstore'? Photo: Thinkstock

PICTURE yourself at your bus stop swiping at pictures of burgers, milk and sugar on a poster so they'll be on your doorstep by the time you get home.

It's coming. Technology is fast changing the way we shop as well as causing the biggest main street clear-out in generations with the mighty marriage of smartphone, internet and interactive systems.

The closure of the HMV chain is symptomatic of the great flux currently gripping retail sector as it struggles to come to terms with one of the most extraordinary periods of rapid redefinition and regeneration ever experienced.

While the recession has closed shops, the internet – allied to the smart phone – is closing shop genres, to the degree that more shop types will be erased from city main streets in 2016 than in 1916.

So what's happening on the street? Which shops are closing, which are opening and how will an Irish shopping street look in three years' time?

In consultation with two of Ireland's key retail trend watchers, economist Jim Power, who has produced retail sector reports for RGDATA among others, and Damien O'Reilly academic and lecturer with the DIT's Retail Management Studies department, we followed emerging shop trends to their natural conclusions. But first the casualties.

Closing in 2013

The Music Shop

Online consumption of music, movies and games and the increasing sale of headline products by supermarkets means the big chains like HMV have no future – their product rendered extinct.

The Travel Agent

With the vast majority of holiday booking done online, there's no need for shops staffed by people in primary coloured uniforms and scarves.

The Bank

Ireland will have lost a quarter of all its banks by 2014 as the chains prune back branches to match the drift to online banking. More are likely to follow as they subcontract customer work to post offices and supermarkets.

The Traditional Pub

Pubs have been closing at a rate of one a day in recent times led by a shift to home drinking based on cheap supermarket purchases and driven by the drink driving clampdown.

The Video Shop

The arrival of Netflix and other online and satellite-led movie subscription services means the video rental shop's days are numbered. Blockbuster – the US-based chain, now in administration in the UK, operates 500 outlets today compared with 9,000 in 2004.

The Estate Agent

With most finding homes to purchase and to rent online there is no need for a retail window presence.

The Book Shop

While Irish book stores had a disastrous Christmas trading season, a record $9bn (€6.6bn) sales tally was recorded by Amazon.com. E-readers grow and Tesco sells headline titles. The writing is on the wall.

UK chains

A recent PWC report showed almost 1,000 UK chain closures in 2012 compared with 174 the previous year. Many, like the Arcadia Group (Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge) and Argos, plan to close units voluntarily for concentration on online sales. Group policies transfer to Irish outlets.

The Newsagent

Shrinking greeting card, magazine and tobacco sales mean 200 traditional newsagents are now closing per annum.

Opening in 2013

The Gold Shop

Outlets seeking scrap jewellery for melting have been clamouring for positions everywhere since gold took off.

The Charity Shop

Cheap rents and increased penny pinching by shoppers have led to clusters of charity shops in secondary streets.

The 'Pound' Shop

The UK-based Dealz chain launched in 2011. Last year it announced a doubling in Irish store numbers after discovering we spend 10pc more in their discount shops than our UK counterparts.

The Payday Loan Merchant

Be it a high-cost loan company or a pawnbroker, the business of short-term cash fixes has been thriving because banks have tightened their credit lines and increasing numbers of householders are strapped.

The Repair Shop

Falling rents are permitting "second floor" traders to move "downstairs" – dress and suit alterations and shoe repairs are returning to ground floors after a generational absence.

The Discount Supermarket

Aldi grew in Ireland by 30pc in 2012. Both it and Lidl continued to seek and open new stores in old suburban villages driven by shoppers' needs to cut food bills.

Closing in 2016

The 'Recession Shops'

Even if the world economy proves slow to recover, many of the stores which opened in the bad times would close anyway. There's only so many gold scraps that the cash-strapped punters can flog while charity shops are suffering supply issues as the boom era supply of quality discarded clothes they have relied on begins to dry up.

Opening in 2016

The Virtual Shop

Entire shop units, outside walls, bus shelters and even the insides of the buses themselves could end up plastered with posters which allow the shopper to purchase by swiping a phone against the coded picture.

Don't believe us? Eason's already operates a "virtual" shop on a large wall space at Connolly Station; while in Korea tube station commuters face giant pictures of Tesco grocery aisles with products they can have on their doorsteps before they get there.

The Brand Showroom

The "scan and scram" trend has seen buyers increasingly use shops as "showrooms" to view items before purchasing them elsewhere online.

Eventually brands will formalise this by providing demo and promo showrooms in the full expectation that the purchase will take place elsewhere.

The Supermarket Convenience

Having saturated most localities, the big food supermarkets are hunting in new turf – the convenience market where their parent purchasing power wields wallop. Witness the rise of Tesco Express.

The Gastropub

The whittled down pub survivors will be running themed, niche or value-added venues. The "gastro pub" which combines good food with drinking has proven a good survival model.

The Healthcare Centre

Driven in part by government policy for primary health care centres, but mostly from the savings and synergies, consultants, GPs and dentists get by clustering together.

The Farmer's Market Foodstore

Like the doctors, successful stallholders from markets selling homemade produce like jams, cakes, pies, meats and cheeses will also cluster for benefits and week-long pitches as increased homogenisation means better demand for craft foods.

The Perma Pop-Up

"Pop-up" shops which have developed from necessity will become formalised as landlords deliberately target brands with flexible "Launchpad" sites in high footfall locations in exchange for high rents.

One day Xbox is promoting a brand new headline games system, the next it's Apple's turn with the latest iPhone offering. Balloons and freebies abound.

The Pre-Trend Indie

In the US where high streets were long ago knocked for six by Walmart, ultra edgy independent fashion shops have sprung up to peddle pre-trend niches for hipsters.

The 'Retail Experience'

Clothes chain survivors attempt to promote a "total consumer experience" enabling more diverse commercial exchanges to take place between consumer and trader.

The buyer enters by swiping their details via phone which in turn enables an assistant to tailor offer packages directly for the individual and based on her recorded taste and spending patterns.

The store will sell this valued info elsewhere by agreement and may offer deals which include outside traders like hotels, spas or holiday brokers. Changing rooms come with shop cameras – enabling users to mail pictures to friends for a second opinion.

The Demolition Site

Retail property expert Neil Bannon has estimated that Irish towns have a 20pc to 30pc shop surplus.

The retail construction boom, online shopping, the now receding UK chain influx and boom era apartment development (with shops on every ground floor) means we are overstocked on all fronts. The wrecking ball is the only answer.

Irish Independent

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