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EDITORIAL Marie Claire and Google offer a snapshot of next generation retail

Retailers are under attack from all sides: Brexit uncertainty among shoppers and retailers themselves, their suppliers and shippers isn’t helping, but the fundamental downturn in spending that this – and years of austerity – have inculcated are taking their toll.

While many look to Black Friday and the shopping bonanza that it is hopefully going to kick off, many retailers are already struggling to shift stock, despite an almost endless discount cycle, which IMRG has identified as being in place among many retailerssince at least this summer.

Shoppers are, as a result, starting their shopping even earlier for Christmas – especially across Europe– but rather than making it a long and even more bountiful season, discounts and revenues are simply being spread over a long period, with the inevitable impact on cash flow, revenues, profits and results.

This Peak season is going to be driven by mobile, with as many as 50% of Black Friday sales being made on mobile devices– 44% of all Christmas shopping in fact – but this is least radical change facing the retail community.

Mobile is already beginning to look dated, according to research by Adobe, it is just part of the death of old world retail. Is it perhaps now time to face facts: retail as we know it is dying.

A dramatic statement, but in a somewhat Easter-themed idea (as opposed to Christmas) it is also rising again – just in a different way.

People are always going to want to buy things. Austerity, Brexit, climate change, right-wing popularism, too hot/too cold weather are not going to stop that. The problem the retail industry faces is that how people want to shop is changing – and that doesn’t mean more mobile, it means in totally different ways.

Witness how fashion magazine Marie Claire is leveraging its fashion nousand huge, hungry, well-dressed audience to curate and sell fashion from leading brands. This is interesting because it marks a real shift it what it means to be a retailer. Marie Claire Edit will curate looks and fashion that it thinks are the bees knees, construct outfits and looks and most importantly of all, sell them.

This turns the worlds of retail, publishing and to some extent marketing on their heads. Publishers can no longer survive on either ad revenue, nor subscriptions (nor both) and so need new ways to leverage their knowledge and audience to make money. Taking their style ideas and selling them creates this for T1 Media, Marie Claire’s publisher.

For marketing, it changes how to get things in front of shoppers. Now it requires getting the right things to the right people – or paying heftily to get those people to use it. Yes, ripe for corruption, but this is fashion we are talking about, it isn’t a biggy.

For retailers the move is both good and bad. The good news is that they can sell more, if they can get publishers to use their goods, giving them a new route to market. The bad news is that it reduces them to mere suppliers with little or no control over how their brand is put in front of consumers.

On the marketing front, Google may well have another shift in shopping protocol that can also help. It has teamed up with NearSt to add local stock info to product searches so that, if you are looking for a lightbulb, say, it can tell you where your nearest shops are selling them, what they have in stock, when they shut and so on. This links the web to the real world and, for many types of goods, it offers a way to keep stores relevant.

This move, like that by Marie Claire, is part of the key to the new retail paradigm. Like it or not, this kind of shift is coming and it may well be more what is needed to revive retail in the years ahead.

Image: Fotolia

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