As demographically powerful younger generations continue to come into their own, they’re transforming the consumer experience and what we expect from it.
“Conscious consumerism”—participating in the consumer economy in a way consistent with certain social and ethical values associated with the young—is becoming mainstream. Aware of the need to stay ahead of consumer sentiment, retailers are adopting zero-waste policies, vaunting the sustainability profiles of their stores, and making sure the foodstuffs they sell are organic. They’re using track and trace technology to verify their supply chains, associating themselves with the “wellness” phenomenon, and ensuring that their products are sustainable.
Consistent with a youth culture that values cultural authenticity and sensitivity, they’re making sure their retail points reflect local mores and traditions.
And that’s not all. New retail models are proliferating in response to younger tastes. As young people embrace urban living, big-box stores have had to adapt. Retailers like Target, for example, have opened scaled-down versions of their large footprint suburban commercial strip stores in downtown locations. Ecommerce platforms have also responded to consumers’ continuing appreciation for the old-fashioned human-scaled store: in recent years, many have opened brick and mortar locations where shoppers can physically experience merchandise. The romance of the retail shop lives on.
But retail is also penetrating new environments, as part of a holistic effort to reconceptualize itself. It’s getting into the hotel game, with retail brands starting their own hostelries to provide “shoppable” environments in which even the furniture is on sale. It’s creating new shopping environments, from pop-ups to retail trucks to micro-retail environments and, in the fashion industry, the shoppable runway show. Retail is even recasting what “luxury” means for an era in which challenging social realities complicate the pleasures of conspicuous consumption—and in which young people who lack the buying power of previous generations famously value experiences over things.
These changes, dramatic as they are, represent only the tip of the spear when it comes to the world of next-gen retail. This report provides more details on these and other changes in food and apparel retail primarily, although it also touches on the retail situation in such adjacent spaces as lifestyle and beauty. In all of these areas, market players are attempting to reinvent themselves to meet the needs and fulfill the desires of a new cohort of consumers.