Try for a moment to take off your retail executive shoes and put on your consumer shoes. Now, go for a walk around the mall. What do you see? Are you able to find exactly what you want?
Consumers these days are becoming more and more demanding. And, according to some industry experts, they are getting what they want. Retailers can learn more about how to satisfy these consumers at GlobalShop 2000, which will be held March 25-27 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
The centerpiece of this year's GlobalShop - the world's largest annual store design and in-store marketing show - is an exhibit called "Stores of the Future." The exhibit, which contains seven smaller exhibits by various retailers, store planners and store designers, explores how retailers can respond to a more demanding, technology-savvy consumer.
While some people believe the store of the future will be solely on their computer monitors, others have a different idea. "I think it's a combination of high-tech and high-touch," says Karen Schaffner, publisher of Display & Design Ideas magazine, producer of GlobalShop. "While technology is a wonderful tool for sharing information and conducting business, it doesn't have the touch and feel."
Exhibits at GlobalShop prove that retail stores will only become more high-tech as retailers continue to compete with e-commerce. Exhibitors will show different kinds of technologies geared to entertain and inform the consumer, as well as entice them into brick-and-mortar stores.
For instance, Granite Springs, N.Y.-based Retail Design & Display (RDD) will participate in the Stores of the Future exhibit displaying at least 10 examples of in-store technologies. The store planning firm will debut its design plans for Canal Jean Company, a 25-year-old retail store in New York City. The 1,200 sq. ft. exhibit will preview several concepts that will be rolled out into 15,000 sq. ft. of space in the store following GlobalShop.
"We've been asked to take the look they've maintained for 25 years and integrate futuristic elements without making it look like Cape Canaveral," says Gerald Birnbach, president of RDD. "The exhibit will include 10 vignettes."
Once the exhibit is brought into the store, Birnbach says, it will be a living laboratory monitored by the display vendors as well as retail consultants. Included in the in-store technologies will be a group of cameras, strategically located throughout the store, that will broadcast live on the Internet. The video cameras allow users on the website to go live to the store, and even manipulate the cameras to zoom in on a particular item. Also, Internet browsers can view their friends who are shopping in the store.
"Technology has been there (for years) as a device for security," Birnbach says. "There is a ton of technology in retail today, but it's more geared to operations. We're making it benefit consumers."
RDD also will showcase a technology that uses a touch screen in conjunction with a monorail system, similar to what dry cleaners use. With this technology, shoppers can pick a size, color and style of clothing, and the garment will come to them. Also, RDD plans to use a touch-screen technology to activate smells.
By incorporating these kinds of technologies into a store, retailers have a way to compete against e-commerce and the home shopping channels, Birnbach says. In-store video demonstrations of products also can help educate consumers while giving sales associates another tool on the sales floor.
"We're trying to compete against the home shopping channels with a kiosk in the store to hear everything there is to hear about a product," Birnbach says. "We're going to fight fire with fire, but we are doing it with real life instead of over a television or computer."
It's clear that retailers are trying to meet the needs of a more demanding consumer, but why are consumers today so demanding? "There are a lot of trends that have worked together to create this," Schaffner says. "The large chains have expanded to every corner of America. They have created a demand for store design, sophisticated merchandise and competitive pricing. Also, the economy is good and consumers have a high level of expendable income. We've taught them to expect more."
In addition to technology, demographics play a large role in the future store, Schaffner says. Generation Y - 60 million collectively - is the largest generation since the baby boomers, Schaffner says. Still, the baby boomers are an important demographic to consider. "Retailers are trying to figure out retail solutions for aging baby boomers," she says. "The baby boomers are getting older but don't want to admit it."
Retailers and store planners can shop for plenty of ideas at GlobalShop 2000, which takes place March 25-27 at Chicago's McCormick Place. This year's show promises 200 first-time exhibitors, for a total of 1,200 exhibits. Sponsored by the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers (NASFM), GlobalShop encompasses five shows under one roof: The Store Fixturing Show, also sponsored by NASFM; The Visual Merchandising Show, sponsored by the National Association of Display Industries Inc. (NADI); Retail Operations and Construction Expo, sponsored by the Retail Contractors Association (RCA); In-store Interactive Ideas (I3), sponsored by NASFM and the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute (POPAI); and POP Marketplace, sponsored by POPAI.
Highlights of the show include an exhibit showcasing 100 years of store design and a conference program twice the size of last year's. On Saturday, March 25, John Kao, chairman and founder of The Idea Factory, will discuss "The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity." Kao uses his background in business psychiatry, film production and teaching to give a how-to approach on including creativity in your business ventures. Also on Saturday, Marve Cooper, principal with Chicago-based Lieber Cooper Associates, will speak about "T-shirts and T-Bones: When Restaurants Meet Retail." Saturday afternoon Anthony J. Deen, vice president of retail design and development for Virgin Entertainment Group, will talk about "The New World of Music Retailing," disclosing the company's plans for its Megastore 2010 project.
On Sunday, March 26, Faith Popcorn, author and consultant with BrainReserve Inc., will discuss "Consumer Trends for the 21st Century." Popcorn will show attendees how to spot, track and act on trends. Later that day, Richard Kelly, director of Levi's Retail Environment, will speak in a session titled "Levi Strauss: When Is a Store Not a Store?" Kelly will talk about where Levi's started, where it is going and where it doesn't want to be.
In "The Gospel of Business Revolution" on Monday, March 27, Tom Peters, author and management guru, will urge attendees to "annihilate the average, demolish the dull and murder the mediocre." Also on Monday, Linda Cahan, principal with Cahan & Co., will discuss "Modern Feng Shui for Retail." Cahan will demonstrate how the placement of fixtures, materials, signage, aisles and props influences sales and attitude.