AI and digital, or independent and personal – what’s the future of retail?
Before Covid-19 the high street was changing, but the pandemic has accelerated huge shifts in the way people shop and consume goods and services.
Some media reports would have us believe that town centres and high streets are in terminal decline, but this is far from the case. Preston and Wrexham show that communities can find solutions to replace it with something better.
The pandemic has brought about a surge in local purchasing and a renewed appreciation for the local, and retail continues to remain the single largest private sector employer in the UK. However, for retail to survive and thrive in the post pandemic world it must adapt to the rapidly shifting landscape.
Consumers demand more than they did before, with sustainability, ethical consumption and the ‘sharing economy’ having deepened during Covid-19. In the age of Amazon, it seems the only way to survive is to specialise and ‘ethicalise’. How can retail outlets and bricks-and-mortar shops capture this behaviour to engage with the enlightened customer who demands that companies exhibit social responsibility and stand-up for sustainable production.
The recent demise of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia has signalled the end of an era for the high street and for fast fashion. However, whilst the demand for sustainable and ethical products is growing, we are also witnessing the rise of online retail outlets like Boohoo and Shein, emerging as new, even more sinister forces in the field of fast fashion. Despite the uncovering of horrific working conditions in factories, the success of these retailers continues to grow exponentially.
What are we witnessing? Which direction are we going in?