The Future of Retail

The other day I was in Beaver Creek watching my kids ice skate.  Watching a 4 and 5 year old ice skate for 2 hours is not the most riveting thing in the world, so I started to window shop at some of the retail shops surrounding the ice rink.  In one of the windows I saw an awesome watch brand, TW Steel. I had never seen them before. They were cool as shit.

One particular model caught my attention.  After making sure my kids hadn’t fallen and broken their neck or weren’t dying of frostbite, I went in to check it out.  It looked great on my wrist.   I was seriously considering getting it.  It was a total impulse buy.   I took a pick and forwarded to Big E.  I wanted her opinion.  I toyed with the idea for awhile and decided to buy it.  But, just as I made that decision, I thought to myself; I should run a search on my IPhone and see what they were going for online.  I’m glad I did.

I found the exact watch, model, etc, brand new for almost half off.  Yup, half off.  There were a number of choices ranging from 45% off to 30% off.  Most were coming in at about a 30% discount.   Needless to say, I didn’t buy it there.  I bought it online when I got home and it comes today.

The experience did get me wondering.  What is the future of retail.  Specifically in big ticket, non-essential items?  For those of us who grew up with no options, it’s not intuitive to check online before we make these types of purchases, but to the up and coming generation who’ve grown up online, checking will be automatic.  With the growth of smartphones, tablets and mobile devices etc, access to pricing information is constantly at our fingertips.  Price comparison is no longer the competitor down the street or around the corner but the entire world, from the store you’re in currently.

Instant gratification has a price.  Most of us will pay more to get things NOW, but like most things there is a limit.  This has to affect retail.  I can’t imagine people paying 30-50% more for something they can get for less by just waiting a day or two and having it delivered to their door. It seems to me retail has to be on the verge of change.  The market is going to demand it; or is it?

Shopping is social.   We don’t like to wait for things.  But, a 50% premium for instant gratification?  That I can’t get my arms around.

Is a change in retail coming?   Is the next generation going to change the retail landscape or are the enough of us who just can’t wait and have to have it right now and therefore retail is just fine?   What do you think?

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