Takeaways from GlobalShop 2018

By Alison Embrey Medina, Editor in Chief/Associate Publisher, design:retail



Some of you may have attended GlobalShop 2018 in Chicago this past March. I walked the show floor, attended several conference sessions, participated in board discussions and mingled away at after-hours events. My biggest takeaway from the show? We’re at a turning point for the retail design industry. All of the conversations, products, seminars and overall mood led me to the feeling that we—that all retail is on the cusp of something. Below is my list of quotes, observations and takeaways that resonated most with this editor after a week in Chicago.

“I’m not scared of Amazon—they are making all of us better.”
This statement, from WWD keynote speaker Tom Nolan, chief marketing and revenue officer for lifestyle jewelry brand Kendra Scott LLC, could not ring more true for me. If you think Amazon is killing your business, then make your business better. Tom and I chatted before his session, about kids and golf and life, and getting to know him on a personal level proved the same easy connection the brand strives to make with each and every customer that walks through the doors of its 75 stores. “It’s not about the bricks and the mortar; it’s what you do inside them,” he said.

“The real story is retail sales were up $232 billion in 2017.”
Coming from Kelly Sayre, a retail analyst for IHL Group, this number hit home. While headlines would all have us believe stores are dying and all purchases are now made from our living rooms, Sayre shared poignant numbers that told a different story. “Amazon accounted for only half of the online growth this holiday,” she said. “Retail sales were up 5 percent in January and February year over year, but it’s being reported as bad news.” She added that 47 percent of retail closures came from just 16 retailers (RadioShack alone closed 1,200 stores). One thing Amazon is doing absolutely right? They are investing $15.1 billion a year on innovation research. As the saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money. On the brick-and-mortar front, Sayre encouraged retailers to invest in transformational IT and remove the friction of buying.

“The youth have always been the drivers of change.”
Gen Z expert Marcie Merriman, chief culture hacker at Ernst & Young LLP, emphasized that the pace of change is only going to move faster, and that we may start to see a shift from mega generations (i.e. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials) into more micro-generations—and the impact on retail could be monstrous. “Generations are born from change,” she said. In a mobile-first Gen Z world (94 percent of the population has a smartphone), the up-and-coming generation will expect instant, seamless and hassle-free, and will demand freedom of choice, control and transparency. View toward gender is much more fluid, Facetime is the norm and “live” is the new novelty. “Sixty-eight percent of [Gen Z] females would rather be strong than skinny,” Merriman said, of this new generation to watch.

Flexibility is key.
Walking the show floor this year, the theme that resonated most prominently with me across product categories was flexibility. From configurable fixture sets that can quickly fold up for easy storage to theatric lighting elements that can be programmed from headquarters, magnetic shelving, snap-fit signage and more—the ability to change, mold and adapt a product line was in high demand on the show floor.

The next wave is coming.
The big buzz at the show was the announcement of next year’s co-location, where GlobalShop will join forces with the Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition (IRCE), the world’s largest e-commerce event, and RFID Journal LIVE! Retail, the only RFID event dedicated specifically to retail application, for a new super show called RetailX. What does this mean? This means retail designers can now walk one show floor with their IT staff, operations team and senior-level management, and see innovation coming from all sides of the retail industry in one place, at one time. What conversations might come out of a day of collaboration like that? If retail aims to truly be seamless between physical and digital, this will be the show to make that happen. Join us at RetailX, June 25-27, 2019, at McCormick Place in Chicago. The future awaits.


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