By: Liz Holland

ICSC Chairman Liz Holland, who immerses herself in retail trends as she travels the globe, expects 2017 to bring unprecedented concept experimentation and new real and virtual experiences to customers. 

Lightstone Shared Space Retail, NYC

Quick Bricking
In New York, a developer is creating a place for multiple e-tailers to hit the streets with a SoHo address more permanent than a pop-up store. Think of it as a three months to a year store life with the potential to go permanent. Also looking at new ways to quickly connect with customers are fashion houses like Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Tommy Hilfiger. During Fashion Week, customers could order fresh off the runway from pop-ups – skipping the six-month wait – which will force retailers like H&M and Zara to rethink how they stock their stores more quickly with the latest trends.

Yes, more of us are wearing technology, but don’t expect it to become ubiquitous anytime soon. Remember Nike Fuel Band? Apple Watch is a niche market at best, and FitBit has about 50%, active users. One likely exception in 2017: Spectacles from Snapchat. They center on the same fun and sharability that is at the core of the brand, and if you’re wearing them with friends they don’t carry the privacy issues that helped kill Google Glasses.

Look for brands to go beyond utility in AR and VR universe and focus on pleasure and excitement. Active seniors virtually climbing a cliff in-store? Now that’s a reason to make a trip to a sporting goods chain. And who knows what they’ll buy once they get there?

Teach Me
Where Augmented Reality (AR) will play a role is in taking digital “life hacks” into the store. Sephora’s in-store make up vanities go from novelty to teachable moments, backed by expert staff that make the experience high touch and potentially high volume. They’ve become a morning stop on the way to work for some women. It’s also working at the luxury end of the spectrum. Charlotte Tilbury London location has “Magic Mirrors” that give shoppers a choice of looks ranging from Ingénue to Rock Chick to Vintage Vamp. These kind of AR solutions will go much further than making your store a Pokémon Go stop.

Expect small footprints of big brands to increase dotting high-traffic boutique shopping areas and malls.  In Tokyo, commuters can virtually select groceries at the station, buy them on their mobile app, and they’ll be ready for them when they get home. Amazon is expanding its grocery store test to 20 storefronts by 2018 and says its bookstores help them gather data about customers in a way they can’t do solely online. lt also allows shoppers to test drive its products – something Apple learned long ago.  Look for Amazon to make their stores an interactive showroom for Fire TV and tablets and its new Echo AI platform. That, in turn, gives them a leg up on the Google, IBM and Microsoft.

Date Shopping
At Footlocker, the NYC33 store-within-a-store, hosts fashion shows. Untuckit serves brown liquor as dates sit in leather couches while their guy tries on shirts. With the expense of date-nights continuing to skyrocket – USA Today estimates an average movie night is now $100 to $150 plus babysitter -- many couples are opting for day shopping and going home to Netflix and chill.  Or they’re combining the two – Ted Baker has partnered with Google and director Guy Ritchie to create an espionage film, “Mission Impeccable”, that’s shoppable.


Cadre International TOD Center in Guangzhou, Atkins

Look to Asia to see the mall of the future. With 70% of the world’s population predicted to be urban by 2020 expect to see a vastly different shopping hub make up that integrates lifestyle, retail goods and entertainment. Think Transit Oriented Design (TOD) – no this is not a mass transit stop by a mall. It’s transit that drives customers to an interwoven experience created by the developers, retailers, entertainment and restaurants The freshest take on this is Mexico-based Kidzania, already in 10 cities in 8 countries. It is headed to the US this year with an immersive learning experience adult-targeted venues could learn from.

Jumping the Shark?

Restoration Hardware’s gone into the restaurant business, giving significant floor space over to feeding shoppers. Equinox and West Elm are both opening hotels. Starbucks is becoming a documentary producer. Will these forays outside of their core business help or hurt the bottom line by diluting the brand? RH says food & beverage is turning into a significant revenue stream. But why would you go to a hotel to shop for a bed? Bets are it will work. West Elm extends the experience so you can live with a big purchase before buying it – creating an intense brand experience along the way. I remain curious as to why they picked the Twin Cities and Indianapolis instead of a design district like Chicago’s River North near the Merchandise Mart.

Holland is Chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and CEO of Abbell Associates, one of the few woman-run retail real estate companies. It has properties in Chicago and across the Midwest.