One of the UK’s best-known retail experts has said retailers and those developing and managing retail spaces needed to increasingly focus on personalisation or risk being left behind.
Speaking at the MAPIC international retail conference in Cannes yesterday, Mary Portas – who has led government reviews into the UK retail industry and is also a TV show host – kicked off a morning conference and panel discussion on the UK retail sector by talking about personalisation.
She said after it emerged as a huge trend in 2013, the sector should expect the focus on individualisation and personal shopping experience – rather than products and physical shopping spaces – will continue to influence retail strategy.
“By 2020, experience will take over product and price; people will be spending on experience and using their time creatively,” she said.
“By 2025, the ‘where’ will be dictated not by stores, but by consumers: they’ll shop where they want to.”
The panel discussion that followed – which featured John Lewis property director Jeremy Collins, The Entertainer strategy director Duncan Grant, Cushman & Wakfield head of European retail Justin Taylor and New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrell – evolved around other developing trends and how they were impacting business models.
Grant said it was “harder than ever” to make money out of retail in the UK, which Collins backed up by the way the industry has been forced to switch from an “obsession with products to an obsession with our customers” and the way it was hard to categorise them as a result.
While Tyrell acknowledged it was a “challenge”, he said creating spaces where retail can thrive would ensure the sector’s future health.
“But the market will also dictate the retail mix,” he said.
“Place making is a key buzzword, so it’s key to make sure the environment is as high quality as the stores themselves.”
Speaking to MAPIC conference organisers after the panel, Portas said shopping centre owners lacked the creative vision and understand of their consumers to be able to survive in the long term.
“The old model of saying, ‘here’s some space, let’s just fill it’ is so outdated,” she said.
“Developers have to think about the vision and think about how well a centre connects with the local community.
“They will eventually get this right, because they will have to if they want to keep adding real value for stakeholders and for shoppers.”