Whether I’m pitching a new store design concept to a retailer, or forecasting retail floor space demand in a council hearing, the sense of a very dynamic, almost chaotic, future for retail is pervasive.
I think it’s easiest to say there is no line between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ retailing. It’s all one increasingly complex market, with many segments!
In late March the NZ Herald ran some very good articles on this subject noting recent moves by Hema/Alibaba, and Amazon Go, as examples of technological innovation in retailing.
Importantly these innovations delivered a great real time, ‘instore’ customer experience. I related to the promise that frustrating checkout queues could become a “thing of the past”.
However this enthusiasm and optimism about online and offline converging needs to be kept in context; there are “rules”.
One example is tax. At the same time as the Herald articles ran, the BBC news reported Donald Trump stepping up ‘attacks’ on Amazon.
The random reactions of lawmakers can’t be ignored. That’s what makes this future so hard to see.
A couple of years ago I was caught by this. I went online and bought two Hawaiian shirts from a great online brand I had shopped many times before. I was shocked to find (on arrival of goods in New Zealand) the cost had doubled and also some paperwork was involved. Tax was the reason.
The national Government and Customs had quietly lifted the cost threshold for offshore purchases in response to local retail concerns and also (no doubt) to get more revenue.
I still love that brand experience and the product but will think twice about purchasing online/offshore in the future.
This story originally appeared on RCG.