6 predictions on the future of retail.

Matt Hornblower

matt.hornblower@nuttall.co.uk - Retail Predictions - June 1 2021.

The pandemic has accelerated a number of retail trends that were emerging pre-Covid. It’s making many of the businesses we work with adopt new services, technologies and interior design and build solutions at pace.

Some have developed their digital platforms and fulfilment processes in line with changing customer behaviour – prioritising convenience and value.

Others are adapting their retail spaces to the world of “phygital” – a blended, omnichannel, retail experience where physical and digital merge in ways that are connected and personalised to the individual.

Here we share our views on 6 retail industry trends, based on our first-hand perspectives of delivering projects for the major supermarketshigh street retailers and multichannel players.

1. Contactless and pick up shopping experiences.

Retailers have had to adhere to safety guidance and regulation to ensure their shopping environments limited the spread of the coronavirus. This has resulted in a surge of new technologies to facilitate “no-touch” shopping. Just as restaurants are now using Apps and QR codes to facilitate smart menus and contactless payments, so retailers are also using contactless NFC (near-field communications technology) to reduce the need for cash handling.

We have also seen a significant rise in demand for buy-online-pickup-in-store ‘BOPIS’. For one of our clients – Pets at Home – we developed a new Customer Service desk concept that included ‘click and collect’ services to enhance customer convenience and enable swift, contactless shopping.

2. Retail theatre – an immersive experience.

We are beginning to see a surge in the creation of multifunctional spaces that create synergies between retail, entertainment and dining. Customers have come to us over the years with briefs to create truly immersive environments that lend shopping a sense of occasion. Futurist Richard Hames coined this redefining of retail spaces as ‘retail theatre’, where shopping centres and concept stores offer a richer range of experiences, by blending retail with sensory experiences all within a single space. Pre-pandemic, we created a flagship experience for the RHS, bringing many such dimensions together in one venue with breath-taking results. We expect to see more retailers and brand owners doing the same in the months and years to come.

3. Smart supply chains.

An increase in expectation around fulfilment of orders has gone hand-in-hand with the boom in on-line retail during Covid. Customers now want goods on the same day as the order is made, with flexible delivery slots to fit their schedules and at no extra charge. With demand going through the roof, wise retailers are engaging 3rd parties to support on logistics and fulfilment or moving quickly to add automated, instore fulfilment centres. We have worked extensively with Morrisons throughout the pandemic to create in-store and back-of-house capacity to support just such developments. We also worked with the mighty Amazon to ensure distribution centres could remain Covid-safe at periods of peak trading.

4. The rise of conscientious consumerism.

Purchasing decisions are increasingly being driven by a commitment to making a positive social, economic, and environmental impact. Businesses have realised that sustainability and business ethics can be central to differentiation strategies that drive brand loyalty. As a result, the world of retail has quickly had to get climate smart, with sustainable, energy efficient processes, products and retail spaces. We played our part in helping ASDA pilot a sustainable shopping concept, during the pandemic and fully expect other retailers to follow this innovative lead.

5. Customisable for Covid-safe shopping.

Since the start of the pandemic, and on an ongoing basis, we’ve seen all of our clients respond and react to changing trading regulations swiftly and with increasing agility. The result? Over the last 18 months we have been commissioned to design and manufacture schemes that are fit for purpose – with key lifespan requirements carefully considered, OR with flexibility designed in into fittings to enable flexibility and customisation. Change has been the order of the day. This is when our expertise in design and prototype really comes into its own, clients can see, feel and touch their schemes, prior to volume manufacture – enabling the all-important ‘pressure test’ to make sure that the end deliverable is totally optimised and made right for the immediate requirement, but also with sight down the line, to plan for additional contingencies, in-store.

6. Recognising the importance of key workers.

Retailers haven’t just had to consider keeping their customers safe throughout Covid. Never has there been greater awareness across our shopping population of just how important the people employed by retailers are in keeping our country moving, healthy and happy. Whether it’s all in-store staff or those taking care of logistics and delivery – the retailers we work with have rightly prioritised the health and safety of their people during the pandemic.

Many of our projects have involved overnight installs, with stringent H&S deliverables, to minimise trading disruption and the impact on key workers. The roll-out of the ‘Brew’ concept to over 400 Morrisons stores, is a perfect example of how expert project management and installation from Nuttall has put the safety of both the clients and our own dedicated workers at the heart of the projects we run.

The way retail will develop, post-pandemic is still hard to predict, but we anticipate that the trends outlined above will continue to play out strongly, as retail continues to be subject to a seismic shift, the biggest we’ve experienced since the birth of the Internet.

If you’d like to talk to us, we’d love to have a conversation.

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