Shopping centers are destined to lose their shopping focus and will continue to reinvent themselves as mixed-use destinations, adding healthcare, educational and leisure uses, according to new insights from The Future Of Retail 2030, a series from CBRE. Even traditional gas stations will morph into "mini-logistic hubs," including serving as collection points for online shoppers, according to the report.
Retailers that are still operating (at least in part) as traditional stores will boost their locally sourced merchandise, CBRE also predicts; independent stores and restaurants will benefit from that local focus and chains will "further develop 'local' concepts and brand names to give the appearance of independence," according to the report.
Technology will continue to evolve, aiding retailers with smart dressing rooms that add to the shopping experience. But CBRE sees the smartphone fading, with wearables taking over. Nevertheless, brick-and-mortar outlets must be prepared to adapt with tech-enabled fast and cashless checkout and opportunities for customers to connect to the internet, according to the report.
The futuristic vision described by CBRE isn't all that far out, considering the changes already taking place. The commercial real estate services and investment firm describes malls and stores as places for gathering and other activities, leisure and otherwise.
"These insights are wide ranging, but we do see common themes," Anthony Buono, CBRE Executive Managing Director of Retail Advisory & Transaction Services, the Americas, said in a statement. "Customers want quick access to goods and services across any and all channels, and they want meaningful experiences around their purchases, be that education, entertainment or wellness."
For American Eagle, that includes laundry — the retailer's new store concept in New York City, which opened last month, includes enticing amenities like free laundry facilities for students and a bar and lounge with a view of Union Square. Even Walmart is including lounge areas in many of its pick-up locations.
And while Amazon's much touted Amazon Go store seems to have faltered over tech hiccups, the idea spurred Walmart to return to its own once abandoned "scan and go" tech. In fact, a record 49,000 self-checkout terminals were delivered to retailers around the world last year. Shipments to U.S. retailers jumped about 155% in 2016, more than double the previous year's growth and reflecting increasing investment in self-checkout systems by some of the largest U.S. retailers, according to a study by London-based strategic research and consulting firm RBR.
It's difficult to imagine Americans letting go of their precious smartphones, but CBRE sees them fading away, although their capabilities will remain — and only grow. "Retail will evolve at a quickening pace, reshaping the roles of the shopping center, the gas station, and the store," Natasha Patel, CBRE director of global retail research, said in a statement. "The speed of change may catch some people by surprise, as the mindset and requirements of the consumer will evolve more quickly than the industry can adapt. This means that investors and occupiers need to get ahead of the changing trends rather than catching up."
More and more retailers are striving to make brick-and-mortar shopping a personalized, sensory experience, by adding food, lights, interactive attractions and digital platforms so that customers feel comfortable, stay longer and keep adding to their basket. But the poster retailer for this vision — except perhaps for the smartphone disappearing part — is Apple, which in Chicago last month opened a location that aims to be a gathering place for leisure and creativity more than for shopping. The company is going so deep with this strategy that it doesn't even want us referring to Apple stores as "stores" anymore, and has been gradually removing the word "store" from its retail location branding since last summer.
"A lot of the big online guys have said they're opening stores. Amazon's investing in stores. Google's investing in stores. ... Starbucks figured it out, you know? Being a gathering place for — right? 'Meet me at Starbucks,'" Angela Ahrendts told CBS News earlier this year. "And you know, I've told the teams, 'I'll know we've done a really, really great job if the next generation, if Gen Z says, 'Meet me at Apple. Did you see what's going on at Apple today?''"