One has only to think back to the retail scene of 25 years ago to realize that things change continuously and dramatically in our field.  Back then, mail order catalogues were predicted to be the downfall of brick and mortar stores (a term that wasn’t even coined until 1992).  Especially in larger stores, displays were often tightly crammed together,  it was hard to find a sales associate to ask for help, and using a credit card or writing a check meant a checkout process that was often long and arduous.

Well, some things haven’t changed — there is still a lack of competent, friendly personnel in most retail settings, and now the Internet is considered a major threat to stores.  But adherence to ADA regulations has finally become commonplace, and scanners and POS systems (as well as the disappearance of the personal check as a means of tender) have streamlined the checkout process.

Entrepreneur magazine recently took a look at the changes in store as we go forward, and I think we’ll like what is coming.  Apple stores pioneered the idea of having every sales associate be a checkout point, and the prediction is that mobile devices will be more common as stores use wireless technology to allow customers to complete their purchase from wherever they are in the shop. Receipts can be sent via e-mail, and a scan of a smartphone can replace the use of a credit card.

Another Apple-inspired movement is the idea that stores offer experience and expertise, with sales being a side result.  Their open-aisled stores with lots of demonstrations and helpful staff makes a visit to the Apple store entertaining and educational.  And do still customers buy? Surely you don’t need to ask.

Diversity is a movement that is already taking hold, especially among younger (need I say hipper?) retailers. We were recently in Hinsdale, IL and visited several shops that combined a well-thought out selection of clothing, gifts, household goods, jewelry, bath & body products and candles into one large, cross-merchandised retail experience.

I’m also happy to see the trend that Entrepreneur refers to as “reusing space” becoming commonplace. Making use of older buildings and preserving our architectural history is a great way to move into the future while honoring our past. 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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