How retail spaces are adapting to the digital age


If you want a phone with real buttons you’ll probably be disappointed, smartphones are now standard and nearly everyone owns one and inevitably, a growing percentage of us shop online and retailers have to adapt.

shop online and retailers

Online shopping has already forced many bricks and mortar businesses to contract, fold, or join the revolution. The value of purchases performed on mobile devices in the UK is approaching £18 billion per year, and people are asking whether shopping centres will even exist in a few years.

Retail consultant Nick Bubb is confident they will, but only for businesses that find the right balance between their physical stores and online operations.

The right balance is different for every business

It is dangerous to generalise about retail industries. Even within the same sector, some businesses will be transformed by digital media and others left untouched.

A few years ago dead-spots, where mobile phones wouldn’t connect, were common inside concrete shopping centres. Today, access to wifi is expected everywhere. For many shoppers, consulting, comparing, researching and locating using a smartphone is already part of their shopping. Some retailers are already thinking beyond automated checkouts and website sales to replacing physical shops with virtual reality shopping experiences. But although digital media connects, it also separates. Many will continue to prefer human contact over robots, and the sensory immediacy of real commodities over VR.

shopping centres

Food and catering are obvious examples. The catering industry has been trending in the opposite direction for some years, with a vogue for closer contact between customers and production lines. Fashionable food outlets provide diners and shoppers with open plan views into kitchens, and fresh food on instant display in serve over refrigerated counters display units or revolving countertops. See a contemporary range here

Future shopping centres

Expect tomorrow’s malls to reflect both movements. As established brands go digital their places will be taken by businesses offering the sense of community e-shopping lacks, through personal services, personalised commodities, and unique items. We are already seeing this, with many premises being let to herbal apothecaries, nail bars, playgroups and small galleries.

The truth is, many people will not lament the passing of malls dominated by predictable chain stores. Their transition into social hubs where conventional shopping is just one element in a multi-purpose space will be welcomed, ensuring their future.