A 2020 Mashup
28 May 2020
In this week's review: are hybrid retail spaces the future, will takeouts take over restaurants, and how can online tools improve offline experiences.
IT’S ALL CONDITIONAL
June 15 – the UK’s date of reopening for nonessential retail – is two weeks away. By then, it seems, shoppers will be raring to go. WWD reported that the country’s high streets saw footfall increase by 49% over the long weekend, compared to last month. But how long will it last?
• With safety measures significantly reducing capacity, and the looming threat of future lockdowns, small businesses are looking at how to stay profitable and capitalise on hyper-local demand.
• The future of selling looks hybrid and multipurpose spaces may be here to stay. Stores could serve as micro-fulfillment centres and production hubs, while open to a limited number of shoppers.
• “[Brands] will be thinking even harder about their physical spaces, and what they’re for … Some stores might become more like warehouses, designed for local needs and with more of an emphasis on collecting than browsing,” Victoria Buchanan, a senior analyst at The Future Laboratory told Courier.
In reopened shops throughout Europe, the FT reported a general trend of less shoppers, yet those who do show up are spending more. “There will be less lingering ... and passing the time of day. People are being much more focused,” said James Daunt, chief executive of Waterstones. As we become acclimated to a new normal, hopefully we’ll see shoppers relax – along with social distancing measures.
IN TAKEAWAY WE TRUST?
Lockdown measures are continuing to be lifted across Europe, but only a handful of countries have set a date for when restaurants can actually reopen. Many operators in the UK see the forecast of July 4 as a best-case scenario, some are planning for October.
“Who Are We Reopening For?” ran a headline in Eater, with the article going on to cite a poll showing 71% of Americans believe it’s a bad idea to reopen restaurants and bars.
The food of the foreseeable future? Gourmet to go.
• London’s recently launched Shop Cuvée, the brainchild of the proprietors behind bistro Top Cuvée and cocktail bar Three Sheets, delivers 2 litre bags of Negroni and other libations to Clissold Park in less than an hour. Co-owner Brodie Meah is already on the hunt for a “multifunctional warehouse space, where we can prepare food, bottle cocktails and process deliveries, but also hold events and have a beautiful shop.”
• “Just because there’s a crisis out there, doesn’t mean what we eat at home can’t be opportunities for creative collaborations and cultural exploration,” wrote Lucas Sin, chef at NYC’s Junzi Kitchen. His three course “distance dining” menus are unveiled weekly, with demos on how to heat and serve streamed on InstaLive.
• Bloomberg reported that Ikoyi’s chef Jeremy Chan is “thinking of a hybrid operation” combining fewer tables in the dining room with takeaway. But is that sustainable?
While we’re sheltering inside, the usual chore of cooking has become a form of entertainment. Harvard Business Review predicted a permanent shift towards more eating at home, citing a study showing the growing numbers of Americans who are cooking more (obviously), but also enjoying it “more now than ever.”
With recipe box orders surging and online food subscription services overwhelmed, an entirely new category is emerging: part-grocer, part-dark kitchen delivering road-tested meals and refreshments.
Last month saw e-commerce transactions in the general retail sector rise by 209% worldwide. Does that also mean a 209% increase in headaches for retailers? Complex fulfillment logistics, the hassle of returns, and the environmental impact of deliveries are among the chief concerns. “E-commerce isn’t magic,” Keith Anderson, Profitero’s SVP of product strategy and insights, told Retail Dive.
Online might feel seamless, but that doesn’t mean it’s the sole solution. It also doesn’t need to be an existential threat to offline. Vogue Business reported on how tech is “pushing innovation in physical retail,” with features like location-based functionality and in-store analytics.
• Omni-channel capabilities are in high demand, with more than 75% of U.S. consumers interested in BOPIS, according to the National Retail Federation. BOPIS is both the name of a piquant Filipino dish and the goofy acronym for Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store. (There’s also the even goofier-sounding BORIS, which stands for Buy-Online-Return-In-Store).
• In a step towards AR dressing, Browns Fashion updated its shopping app with a new “in-store discovery mode linked to connected mirrors, which will suggest pieces specifically tailored to each client.”
• Mobile apps and other digital tools are not only helping smaller businesses stay solvent, but they’re also enabling consumers to shop local. “This moment has made us all reflect on what the fabric of neighbourhoods is really made up of, and commerce is just so baked into that fabric. We see a lot of consumers looking to buy locally. It feels like a way to put your dollars toward the things you care about,” said Arpan Podduturi, Shopify’s retail head of product.
The merging of online and offline retail is yet another example of the fast-forward button being hit on a shift that was already happening . Before corona, brick and mortar retailers had been exploring digital solutions to gain a competitive edge – from smart trolleys to virtual reality.
Millennials are notorious for their inclination to spend on experiences over products. How will that preference be shaped by this crisis, and how might retail reincarnate?
With the tech at our fingertips, we’re about to find out.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.