The store of the future is a hotly debated topic by many within retail. At the extreme end of the spectrum there are those that believe stores will simply become show rooms for products as technology, specifically the internet, continues to erode the high stree and stores will wither and die. Those that believe in the present format will continue to evolve but not drastically change. Although most believe that high street retail will continue to shrink, in terms of the number of outlets, as ecommerce continues to take market share. This phenomenon is also true in the USA as well.

In truth the actuality of the store of the future will probably lie somewhere in between these two extremes. So here’s our go at staring into the crystal ball to see what stores will evolve into.

Stores will become the integrated hub where sales channels merge. For example areas that are dedicated to click and collect and returns will continue to appear and how customers use and interact with stores will also evolve.

So the store format will be geared around the customer and their retail experience. And it will become mobile. Staff will be ‘armed’ with mobile PoS* deployed on tablets, and mobile kiosks acting as information portals for customers will be commonplace, where they can browse stock, product information, videos and so forth. For the retailer it will be important each touch point has the ability to recognise a customer and their preferences and track their visit. That way they can begin to profile customers and offer a more personal experience in-store and across their brand.

Metrics for store performance will also evolve, for example new performance indicators that highlight how each sales channel can influence another will be critical in evaluating their performance. For example incidental purchases made in-store by web visitors (i.e. those who are simply collecting or returning items in-store) will become more important.

So yes we believe it is more evolution than revolution but the stores need to get smarter and be able to inform customers at every touch point. Which leads onto the larger point of will there be a high street left for retailers to have this store of the future?

Will the high street wither and die?

Local Data Company reported in September 2014 that Britain’s vacancy rate fell in August to 13.3% from 13.4% in July. This is its lowest level since June 2010. So are high streets reviving? Again the truth is probably not as prosaic as that. The high street’s health is inextricably linked to the economy. When the economy is growing, the high street will mirror that, and when the economy is in a downturn again the high street will follow that, but perhaps the peaks and troughs will be smaller than the before.

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