About Howard Saunders

Howard has worked in retail design for over twenty five years. As a former Creative Director of Fitch, based in London, he was responsible for retail design and branding and for creating multi-disciplinary teams of architects, graphic designers, product designers and copywriters and making them work together! As an independent consultant Howard has worked closely with Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Westfield, for over a decade, helping them develop new store designs and keeping them informed of the latest retail innovations and shifts in customer expectations. His work with Westfield, for example, culminated in the creation of the artisan Great Eastern Market at Westfield Stratford, Europe’s largest shopping centre, which opened in 2011 on London’s Olympic Park. Now based in New York, Howard’s current clients include CBRE, Claire’s Accessories, Consumer Goods Forum, Ebay, Johnson & Johnson, L’Occitane, Magento, Mothercare, Permira and Westfield World Trade Center. As an international speaker Howard’s talks are big, visual journeys across the world of retail. Provocative, challenging, brutally honest, evidence based and thoroughly entertaining.

DISCOUNTING, INCENTIVES & THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN


I read recently that in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden the US Government offered a reward of twenty five million dollars, to the good people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, for information as to his whereabouts. There were no takers. After months of debate in Congress they finally came up with a solution: to double the reward to fifty million dollars. There were still no takers. It’s clear the US Government needs a lesson in how incentives work.

A thousand years ago, when I was a freckle-faced newbie at my first London design agency, I remember meeting with our in-house copywriter to discuss a client promotion we were working on. Ivan was a gentle and avuncular chain smoker and his rich, filterless Camel voice explained to me that a jackpot of say, one hundred thousand pounds would attract fifty thousand entries, but that a prize of a red convertible sports car (worth less than a quarter of that) could expect to attract twice as many entries. Experience had taught him that incentives are much more powerful when they are tangible, when they light up our imaginations. Numbers alone are never as effective.

Consider the scam emails that offer vast sums of money following the death of someone with a similar family name. If the bait was say, a riverside house overlooking the Niger, then maybe, just maybe, it would be more believable that Uncle Adebambo had bequeathed it as he lay on his death bed. Instead they persist with offers of multi millions of dollars, making it ever more improbable and preposterous. (Perhaps there’s a consultancy role for me here?)



Just as incentives need not be large to shift behaviour then the same is true for disincentives. Over-charge me by one dollar for a bottle of water and I’ll go elsewhere. The hotel mini-bar industry, for example, is a great lesson in how to ensure all your customers leave feeling ripped off. It’s become a cultural joke that we’d have to be crazy drunk before we dared reach into the damn thing. And we mostly are, of course.

Incentivising is a psychological game and discounting, whilst seemingly straightforward, is actually a highly nuanced area. For instance, ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ may work brilliantly for washing powder or baked beans but in fashion it looks like barrel scraping. Two shirts for the price of one suggests these aren’t the shirts you should be wearing. In this post-crash, post-apocalypse climate we want THE product (shirt, coffee, car) not A. We want our shirts to feel special. As we slip it on we need to know that we made the right choice, that we are a truly discerning customer who wears THE shirt, not just any old shirt. We even look for that special THE reassurance when we choose our morning coffee for god’s sake. Most of us are much less vain and demanding when it comes to baked beans.


Accessibility versus inaccessibility is a game of ‘push me, pull you’ to achieve the right balance. Retailers spend millions trying to get us to choose their product over a competitor’s. They invest in flagship stores and window displays to outshine their neighbours. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns to build product awareness and promotions to encourage us to shop with them; they line their walls with beautifully lit displays…and yet the truth is that the more accessible something is, the less we want it. Just imagine that Louis Vuitton strikes a deal with Walmart and starts selling its iconic handbags half price at the checkout. (I know this parallel universe isn’t easy to slip into, but there are brands that have done worse) For the first week or so they would shift an awful lot of handbags, but sooner or later we’d realise that we don’t desire them like we once did and within a matter of a few weeks Louis Vuitton, and all it stood for, would be finished. They’re exactly the same, beautiful bags, remember, but now they are completely drained of the value and respect we projected onto them.

That’s because a product is so much more than just a product. Buy it from a glamorous flagship on a sunny Saturday and it’s imbued with flagship flavour forever. Buy it from a dodgy geezer off the back of a truck on a wet Wednesday in Hull and that too will stay attached to it (even if you do feel savvy that you knew where to find the truck). Every time you open the wardrobe it will remind you of how it came into your life. No one else will know of course and so now it also carries with it an air of deceit!


Discounting too is similarly paradoxical, alluring though it is to both customer and retailer, it can do serious, long term but invisible damage to a brand. When I see something reduced by 50% I instantly feel I want it half as much as I did previously. Even if it was something I’d had my eye on, the thrill of the discount must be offset against the disappointment that it has become that much more accessible. And if it’s a luxury item then it raises lots of questions such as ‘What’s wrong with it? Why can’t they sell it? How much was the original mark up?’ etc etc. In an instant, the unattainable has become attainable, the dream has evaporated and therefore, the product is devalued. It’s like Groucho’s ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me’ conundrum. Tricky things customers.

If brands have achieved anything by investing in the meaning and cache that transforms their products into desirable non-commodities, then surely a sale has to puncture that, temporarily at least. Aspiration, certainly in luxury goods, is a brand’s very essence. To erode that, even gently, is to erode the nucleus of its structure.

That is not to say a sale, a short and finite period of discounting, is not a respectable way of driving sales. Limiting the damage in customers’ minds is the key. End of season sales make perfect sense but sale posters that perennially plaster the windows of furniture stores, for example, simply destroy any credibility that the products were ever meant to be full price. Equally, at sale time customers get into ‘sale mode’ and won’t even consider a store that refuses to join the party. So it does make sense for luxury or premium brands to join the fun… so long as it’s carefully managed in a considered and contained way. And just like the ridiculous multi million dollar offers the email scammers make, discounts of 70% and 80% appear just as ludicrous. It’s advertising that they’re either going bust or have been ripping us off previously; neither of which are particularly strategic messages.

Customers (that’s us by the way) aren’t stupid. We can smell desperation and death within a hundred yards of a shop window and no one wants either of those as a brand value. Talking of which I just popped into see how Hollister on Fifth Avenue was looking these days. Oh dear god!

So, the next time the US Government considers putting a multi million dollar bounty on the head of an international terrorist, maybe it should offer a bright red, convertible Mustang instead.


Join me on Twitter for daily retail rants @retailfuturist and read more of my blogs here:  andcom.uk9.fcomet.com/blog/

  Howard Saunders   Feb 01, 2016   Brand, discount, incentives, Retail, sales, shopping, Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More

THE ME AGE (God, mobile phones and reasons to be cheerful)


The future is scary. We have so much to worry about: climate change, terrorism, migration, our diets. It’s a wonder any of us ever sleep at night and now we have the impact of technology to worry about too. Not long ago we dreamt that 2016 would bring us jet packs, hover boards and deep space exploration but now that we’ve arrived it’s far more Orwellian. We have to come to terms with the fact that there’s a giant cloud hanging above our heads that knows everything about us. And If that’s not bad enough we’re regularly being warned we’ll soon be losing our jobs to an army of super-smug robots.


We worry that our children have become addicted to their mobile phones, that their attention spans have plummeted to sub-goldfish levels and their literary skills will not improve beyond the ‘u no wot I meen…obvs!’ school of vernacular. We roll our eyes when we witness a group of teens unable to enjoy just ‘being’ without the grinning selfie-evidence that they were there. We despise our fellow passenger’s loud phone calls home and we worry about the drumming decibels that relentlessly pound our children’s eardrums as the background music to their digital lives. Walking the streets we curse behind clenched teeth at the hoards of phone-zombies that blindly career towards us, heads hunched over the screen that controls them (until we too need to check our location or diary appointment.) We even worry about the time we spend worrying rather than just living and we reminisce about a gentler age before mobile phones and computers arrived to consume us.


I believe history will prove that the birth of the ‘smartphone’ was a defining moment for mankind, no hyperbole. Right now, because we’re busy living, we see the smartphone as the gentle evolution of the mobile phone, but it’s far more significant than that. We know the human brain can apply itself to only one task at a time, so no matter if information is projected onto our spectacles or directly onto the backs of our eyeballs, from now until eternity we are homo-distracted, forever connected elsewhere. This tiny device has revolutionised not just our behaviour but the way we think about our place on the planet. We have entered a new age of enlightenment: the Me Age.

For ten thousand years or so we struggled to come to terms with our place in the Universe. Religions of all flavours attempted to convince us of our importance and promised us the answers in the afterlife. Much use that was. We built structures hundreds of feet high, buildings both religious and secular that stretched to the heavens demanding divine confirmation…but we heard nothing. Then, one morning back in 2007, we awoke to find our mobile phone had metamorphosed into the Universe itself! ‘Smart’ is an understatement, this magical, glowing tablet is all knowing: it knows exactly where we are, our tastes in food, music, film and fashion. It follows our friends, family, finances, our secrets, our hopes and even our dreams. This new god, unlike those that came before, actually answers our questions…and instantly too.


Little wonder then that our children worship him so faithfully, waking in the night to bathe in his glow, checking in at every opportunity with inane selfies that beg for his approval. This is the God that can publish our innermost thought or most trivial snapshot to the entire planet within a few micro-seconds, proving that it wasn’t trivial after all. At last we’ve received the validation we’ve been praying for all these centuries: we ARE at the centre of the Universe! Everything comes directly to us now. No longer do we need to be told what to think at the altar of church or school, what to buy at the altar of television, what to listen to at the altar of the Top 40. The Universe is actually in our hands.

As I’ve said before, the art of prediction often has a natural negative gravity in that we tend to view change as part of an inevitable slide to oblivion. The truth is the future gets the people it needs. If we were able to pluck a few poor, unsuspecting souls from the 18th or 19th Centuries and plonk them in 2016, they would be unemployable. In that respect, any desire to return to old fashioned values is pure folly. Just think, the future president of the United States is currently a spotty teenager, texting friends and posing with a stupid Instagram grin.

My own children were first generation digital natives and like every parent I worried about them endlessly. Once they reached the age of six or so they barely made it into the garden, or joined us for dinner, preferring instead to play violent computer games and surf hardcore pornography. (I’m guessing here, but I’m not a stupid Dad) Thankfully, neither of them have turned into mass murderers, not yet anyway, and both have solid and respectable jobs and social lives.

Surely those born with all knowledge at their fingertips, will, on the whole, be more liberated, empowered and emboldened, no? Is it not exciting that for the first time in history we have a youth that really does have a voice, the influence of which it’s just learning to use?  Will they not have a more rounded, nuanced and informed view of life on this planet than, say, the humble farmer tilling the soil?


Technology can be scary and, sure, there are downsides, but it’s clear to me that we are at the beginning of something very big here. Governments, local authorities, social services, healthcare and, of course, retail brands will very shortly lose the excuse to treat us as ‘the public’, as if we don’t matter, as if they don’t know who we are. They will know, we’ll make sure of that. Imagine an age in which no one can snarl dismissively ‘Join the queue here please.’ or ‘You’re not in the system’; an age that no longer generalises, pigeonholes or makes assumptions about us without the facts.

The technology is already in place to to make this happen. Our magical, glowing tablet already knows who we are and what we get up to and soon it will carry our health and wellbeing status too. It can’t be long before we realise we’re in the middle of the Me Age, where we will be, not just customers, but individuals.

I say bring it on!

Join me on Twitter for daily retail rants @retailfuturist and read more of my blogs here:  andcom.uk9.fcomet.com/blog/

  Howard Saunders   Jan 05, 2016   Brand, Future, image, me, me age, Retail, smartphone, technology, Uncategorized   5 Comments   Read More

THE FUTURE OF FAST FOOD

There’s a revolution happening in fast food. No exaggeration, the tide has turned and it won’t be turning back. The big daddy of fast food, the mighty McDonald’s and its contemporaries are in a quandary. With declining sales last year McDonald’s closed more stores than it opened in the US…for the first time. In ever growing numbers something has shifted inside us. Our post-crash mindsets are now in search of better quality products with values, not just value, and the food industry in particular is finding it hard to adapt. Let’s not misunderstand this. McDonald’s is still selling us millions of burgers every year. 26 million to be precise, from its 14,000 US restaurants alone.


Ask yourself how you feel about McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway? Has your attitude changed and what changed it? How often do you eat there now? And, perhaps more to the point, how do you feel about being seen carrying those little brown bags of shame? Shame, yes that is surely part of the problem. Where once the glowing red and yellow signs represented a sunny, modern American lifestyle, now they have come to represent bad health, obesity, the poor…or all three.

Are we even allowed to say ‘the poor’ now? Low socio-economic status seems such a waste of time. To say that many of these customers are poor is not to put them down, or to suggest that they are trapped there through idleness or ignorance. Single mothers with a family to feed are faced with a simple choice: they can spend $10 on healthy vegetables and other ingredients that need peeling, preparing, cooking and, let’s face it, flavouring, or they can spend $5 on a Happy Meal. I always come back to the fact that humans are a logical species and faced with that choice the Happy Meal wins hands down. It even includes a drink and a toy, for god’s sake! Lentil soup is no competition.

But the news just gets worse. This endless gorging on high fat, high sugar, high sodium foods is not just disastrous for our health, it may well be the major cause of climate change too. Watch the powerful and persuasive ‘Cowspiracy’ documentary for the detail but some of the figures are astonishing:

Animal agriculture consumes 30% of the world’s water. One cow eats 140-150 pounds of water intensive grain and drinks anything up to 50 gallons of water…per day! It takes a shocking 660 gallons of water to produce one quarter pounder. Animal agriculture is also responsible for 91% of the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest and it seems that anyone who points this out over there is very quickly ‘disappeared’.

As ‘Cowspiracy’ elegantly illustrates, it makes a mockery of eco shower heads and rubber bricks in your cistern.

But things are changing. As we learn more and more about how our diet is affecting our own, aswell as our planet’s, health more of us are joining the ranks of the Worried Well. Those of us in employment, the urban gym rats, the ambitious, the concerned, the conscientious and those that believe they have some sort of an investment in the future are shunning the big chains and choosing instead to lunch at Sweetgreen, Dig Inn or Chop’d: small chains that focus on seasonality and local produce. No longer is McDonald’s in competition with Burger King. It’s these small ‘artisan’ brands that are grabbing market share from the big fast food brands in our busy urban centres. The ‘artisan revolution’ is happening right across the board: whether it’s beer, bread, coffee, chocolate or cheese, the big corporations are losing sales to small batch producers with their ‘authentic’ values and health halos. Sales at the big brands are still gargantuan in comparison, of course, but we are witnessing a David and Goliath battle that’s being played out, not in high production advertising, but on the far more treacherous battleground of social media.


The response has been fascinating. McDonald’s, the biggest and by far the cleverest, is leading the counter attack and now sources its chickens free from antibiotics even branding its chicken sandwich ‘artisan’ and who can blame it since the definition of this well worn word is so woolly. It also recently replaced margarine with butter on its Egg McMuffin. This small and rather obvious decision sends seismic shockwaves throughout the food industry simply due to the enormous numbers involved. It means that McDonald’s will increase its dairy use by nearly six hundred million pounds of milk each year…enough to produce every pound of butter the US exports.

McDonald’s is testing new formats too. For example, it’s currently trialling a bespoke burger here in Manhattan under the ‘create your taste’ banner. I tried it. It’s actually really good. You build your own burger, with a big choice of extras, toppings and even buns, on a giant iPad. After you swipe to pay you pick up a GPS disc so that they can deliver your meal straight to your table. It avoids having to deal with the sullen counter staff for one thing and certainly gives Five Guys and Shake Shack a run for their money.

It’s important that we don’t get over agitated by the numbers everyone throws at the big brands. Back in 2001 Fast Food Nation shocked us with plenty of that. The sad reality is that if a billion of us want chicken for dinner then, one way or another, a billion chickens have to die. If we go back to rearing chickens and cows in idyllic, free range conditions there simply isn’t enough planet for us all to eat meat. Sensible and well meaning pleas for us to quell our carniverous desires will not work. Even recent evidence that meat eating can cause cancer had little effect. We have become meat addicts and only when the price of meat starts to become truly prohibitive will we cut back. The most likely scenario is that the middle classes will ‘do the right thing’ by eating only high quality hand-reared animals once or twice a week, leaving low cost protein, along with the high sugar intake, to those who can’t afford anything better. Of course, this will only exacerbate the fact that the poor are more likely to be obese with all the health consequences that entails.


As with so many areas of consumer behaviour at the moment, we are witnessing a rebalancing and ultimately it’s good news. We are already seeing the big chains react with more ethical processes and that is sure to gather momentum as we learn more about good and bad nutrition. Prices will have to increase to accommodate these changes but a Meal Deal will always be just that, good value. Perhaps the biggest issue will have to be faced by Coca Cola and the big drinks corporations…but that’s another story.

McDonald’s has a unique and very direct relationship with its customers, unlike so many of the giant food corporations. Its influence and sheer buying power is sure to gradually fine tune fast food to be better produced, slower and more ethical wherever it can. At the other end of the spectrum high quality fast casual brands will have to face a different dilemma: how big should they get? In other words, how big can David grow before he becomes Goliath?

Join me on Twitter for daily retail rants @retailfuturist and read more of my blogs here:  andcom.uk9.fcomet.com/blog/

  Howard Saunders   Nov 24, 2015   Brand, Food, Future, Retail, Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More

DEAR GATWICK (a rant)

Is this really the best you can do? Here at the South Terminal the jewel in the crown is…Nando’s. Yes, Nando’s. And the big anchor on the top floor is a dark and sticky Wetherspoons called The Flying F*** (or maybe it’s horse). As a nod to the twenty first century we have three grubby little internet booths. Yes, here you can pay for a session on THE INTERNET! Wow, I love THE INTERNET. At least it’s an escape from this hell hole. God forbid you just give us free, non-Boingo goose-chase access to THE INTERNET. What would we do with all that freedom? I dread to think!

Take a close look at this place, for what they have built here is a direct reflection of what they think of their customers…and that means you. This sub-Lakeside setting has been skilfully sculpted around what they think we want, none of this happened by accident. They sat with architects and consultants and negotiated hard with a range of tenants to bring you the mix that’s right for you. Not for them, you understand. Not for their wives or husbands, nor for their children. No, Gatwick is clearly aimed at other people’s children, the ones we avoid, the ones that shout at us in the street.

So let’s look at these customers: the fearless builders, arms full of Eastern symbolism and heads full of football, the little lavendered old ladies who rub their spotted hands in constant disapproval and chew their estuary vowels like seedless grapes. The pubescent parents laden with pushchairs and baby kit, the snub-nosed, borderline-obese teens, faces as sullen as X Factor rejects. Yes Gatwick, I too avoid these people but don’t you think we should give them something better than this? Can we not raise their expectations a tiny bit, or must they simply have another McDonalds and Cafe Rouge? Is there anyone left on Planet Shit that really believes Wondertree is an up and coming restaurant plucked from Chichester town square and not just a catering conglomerate’s cynical impersonation?

Are we not clever enough to give these ordinary, ‘hard working families’ a glimpse of something better before they land on Lanzarote? Let’s try and be helpful here. For a start we could have a gourmet burger bar, there are lots of great ones to choose from. And how about a John Lewis style restaurant, bright and contemporary, with an open kitchen and a small, daily, freshly prepared menu? Instead of the dark and dingy Flying F*** there could be an open bar with local ales, holiday cocktails and friendly barmen. There could even be an astro-turf picnic area and cinema screen where families can relax and enjoy their Pret sandwiches and takeaways.

I know I sound like a pipedreamer and you think my argument doesn’t ‘stack up’ but hang on a minute. You are the ones that want another runway! You are the guys that want to be taken seriously as the gateway to England!

So, be careful Gatwick that, like Tesco, you don’t just ‘give us what we want’. Tesco sank into a mire of its own making, grabbing desperately at Giraffe and Harris & Hoole at the last minute to make it look as if it was listening. Of course, it only dragged those down too.

Mediocrity has an immense gravity, especially when it fills the tills every night. What England needs is a vision, an uplifting, chest filling, brand showcase that makes us feel proud of our funny little island. Dear Gatwick, I know you can do better.

Join me on Twitter for daily retail rants @retailfuturist and read more of my blogs here:  andcom.uk9.fcomet.com/blog/

  Howard Saunders   Oct 28, 2015   Uncategorized   1 Comment   Read More

2035: WHAT’S IN STORE?

I gave a talk in The Netherlands recently which specifically asked for predictions for the year 2035. I love challenges like this, scary though they are. General rhetoric about shifts in behavior are not enough; you have to really put your neck on the line. So here’s a summary of my forecast for 2035:

Firstly, I call myself a Retail Futurist because that’s exactly what I do: I worked in retail design for over 20 years and now I track retail and consumer trends internationally to build a picture of how things are likely to develop. Shops, and consequently our towns and cities, are in a state of flux as never before. It’s such an exciting time: new technologies have given rise to new consumer behaviour and we are just beginning to see the manifestations of this.

Secondly, I must also declare that I am an optimist. So, to take the serious issues head on I believe we will largely overcome the threat of climate change and whilst terrorist groups will continue to multiply and become ever more dangerous, I believe, as the figures prove, we will continue to live in a more peaceful and less violent society than ever. Since the financial crash, I believe our towns and cities are experiencing a renaissance. Paradoxically, in this digital age we are rediscovering the importance of community and this has to be great news for the future.

I think it’s important here to point out the natural gravity toward the negative when it comes to prediction. We have good evidence of how different civilisations, across many centuries, reacted when they saw Halley’s Comet, for example. In 1066 they thought it was an omen for the death of Harold II at Hastings and before that this ‘sign from the gods’ was responsible for endless predictions of failing crops as well as thousands of brutal sacrificial killings.

Not one civilisation that we know of thought the comet’s bright tail in the sky foretold a better crop or more healthy offspring. It seems the power of portent lies clearly at the negative end of the spectrum.

Cities are ultimately places for the exchange of ideas. They are, and always will be, hubs for the young and ambitious who want to change things or simply feel close to the centre of the universe. In mature democracies our cities are at the beginning of an age of enlightenment: we are learning how to regenerate broken spaces, learning to love our heritage and history and coming up with ever more inventive ways to make spaces alive and vibrant. The good news is that retail is now seen as a catalyst for this. Architects and town planners who once preferred a purist vision of civic buildings and green spaces are learning that select retail can bring colour and life to a space. So, in 2035 we can expect our global cities to have many more communal spaces, urban parks, oases, event spaces and arenas where people gather for fashion and food shows, markets, theatre, performances and promotions of all kinds. The marriage of commerce and culture will be a much more comfortable one with big companies wanting to benefit from the warm glow of community. Parts of our city centres will be ‘ring-fenced’ and better managed with branded cleaners and security staff paid for by corporate sponsorship.

I may be a futurist and an optimist but I’m also a realist. There will be no shortage of issues to worry us. Health scares will increase in frequency and give rise to ever more niche, restrictive diets, which in turn will require niche food operators and diet specialists. For insurance purposes we will all be expected to monitor our own health much more closely with our personal devices and for those of us that can afford it medicine and healthcare will become highly bespoke with hourly monitoring.

Contrary to popular predictions we will not be commuting in our driverless cars, nor will the sky be thick with drones delivering toothpaste. Drones will be used mostly for surveillance, security, crowd control at events and for emergency deliveries. Driverless cars will only be seen in highly managed city epicentres, and even then they will be restricted to under 40 kph. Many of our major global cities are projected to grow by at least 20% by 2035 and no matter how small and eco-friendly our cars become, the infrastructure will simply not be able to cope with individual vehicles for the general population. Car sharing is a much more practical, and therefore likely, model for getting us all around, and we are already witnessing the beginnings of this with Uber and its contemporaries. On our motorways, driverless trucks will run constantly in a designated lane, only requiring human drivers to help them reach their final destinations.

Politics will continue to be a bumpy and reactionary road but the incremental move away from post war socialism will continue as we learn better how to manage our economies, reduce state dependency and harness corporate sponsorship.

After several decades that saw our venues for cinema and theatre gradually get smaller and more intimate, we will see the resurgence of big, communal venues of a thousand plus: the increasingly bespoke nature of our ‘inner worlds’ will see us cherish big, communal events again and enjoy feeling part of a big crowd.

As for the mix of stores and shops, we are at the beginning of some big changes on the high street. I would expect to see a much more polarized picture: big, glamorous fashion flagships in our major cities, alongside niche independents. Many department store brands will have disappeared making way for ‘click & collect’ centres run by new brands to the high street that made their names online, including players such as Amazon. Rents will flex to encourage start-ups to join the fun and I’d expect to see shorter leases and increased turn around bringing new players to market more frequently. Stores will become brand showcases, arriving in a town for a few weeks at a time, before moving on. Technology will make stores much more informative showing us how and where things are made and how we can customize them. Out of town and edge of town supermarkets will have become value warehouses selling largely on price. Smaller, high end food brands will sell groceries in town but with a much greater focus on good quality take away meals. Banks will have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Advertising will be highly targeted and individually bespoke. City billboards will be interactive, talking to passers-by in real time, offering us Minority Report style tailored promotions and opportunities. Our favourite stores and brands will be our personal ‘clubs’, inviting us to previews and events in return for holding all our personal information so that cash and credit cards will become obsolete. Payment systems will be invisible with fingerprint recognition widespread. Privacy will be bigger issue than ever before as we become a highly monitored society. ‘The internet of things’ will bring us bespoke service and better information…but at the price of much greater surveillance. Our mobile devices will be critical for us to access services and information of all sorts, but they will also dissuade and restrict us from ‘buying that last drink’ or eating unhealthily. In short, we will be both better served and far more restricted.

Voice responsive operating systems will see the end of the keyboard on our mobile devices but this may give new life to the Google Glass, or equivalent, as we will need to hear our OS responses from an earpiece or from the arm of a pair of glasses. We will continue to be ‘moths’ ie. screen focussed, but screens are likely to become ‘bendyware’ ie. soft, malleable, expandable and much more comfortable to carry and wear than today’s hardware. Information will be held remotely so that a screen I touch will reveal different information than when you touch the same screen.

Robotics is another subject that brings out droves of doom and gloom merchants. However, just as it took the digital age to help us recognise the importance of community, so the rise of robotics will help reveal what is great about humanity: emotion, empathy, hospitality and the human connection.

It is not difficult to imagine a world in which data ‘knows’ everything about us: our personal preferences, habits and tastes in fashion, food, film and music. This is already happening. The consequences for retail though are particularly exciting. If during a film your favourite star can be ‘clicked on’ to order her dress in your size and colour, then exactly what constitutes a ‘shop’ will change yet again.

All of this comes with huge issues of security and privacy but ultimately, as an optimist, I believe that we can look forward to a world where there will be no customers, no consumers. Finally, we will all be individuals.

Follow me @SaundersHoward

  Howard Saunders   Oct 14, 2015   Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More