Drivers Jonas Deloitte took advantage of the heavy retail presence which has been thrust upon Manchester today to host their own event a stones throw away from the hubbub of BCSC, discussing the future of retail.
One of the over riding themes in evidence throughout the seminar was the shift in dynamic between customer and retailer – and how the former is now not only king, but a "despotic tyrant", forcing the latter to play the role of contortionist, bending to the will of the ever-demanding consumer. Another was how town centres will cease to exist as we currently know them, changing into either thriving but bespoke market towns adorned with boutique retailers, or mixed-use metropolises – with residential and leisure offers replacing the outgoing, outdated shops.
According to Deloitte, brands will now have little choice but to move into multi-channel retailing, and embrace the online environment as a supplement, rather than a challenge, to their physical stores. Many retailers have already done this to great effect, and it is in fostering a strong brand identity both on the High Street and online that stores can connect with the ever more conscious customer, ensuring long-term survival in a jungle of a market.
The overriding sentiment was one of cautious optimism tinged with realism. There undoubtedly remains a strong demand from retailers for space – but allied to that is a demand from the consumers for the once implicitly trusted brands to prove their worth once again – online as well as in store.