The ever-changing retail landscape

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that the retail world was in turmoil, that the mall was dying, that online was going to drive bricks and mortar out of business…I’d be a wealthy woman.

Westfield Mall in Sydney's CBD.

And yet it’s probably safe to say that things are changing in substantial ways, and that we’re all looking for ideas to help us navigate the waters ahead. I may not have the life preserver for those choppy waters, but here are a few thoughts on retail trends that are influencing the practice.


I never really understood the rift between the online retailers and their bricks and mortar counterparts, and the idea that it would ultimately be an either/ or proposition. If you look at how anyone under the age of 25 shops, it’s clear that for most, online vs in-store is a non-issue. They shop however, whenever, and where ever they choose, and the range of products, places and experiences they seek is broad enough to keep retailers busy for decades to come. This idea of “Total Retail” is a substantial shift from the days when the shopper was at the back end of the supply chain, to a time when consumers rule the roost, and are able to shop for only what interests them, through whatever channel catches their eye.

So who is out there and what are they looking for?


Men’s path-to-purchase has typically been more linear than women’s. Their attention span? Short and targeted. Blurring the lines between retail and hospitality, the retail store has transformed into a modern-day men’s club offering personalized services and a space to be pampered. Todd Snyder’s “City Gym” in New York is a pop-up collaboration with Champion brand that is part men’s locker room, barber shop and designer showroom.


Who’s Athena? The Boston Consulting Group dubs her the confident, financially independent career woman. Even more important, she is on the rise around the world and is poised to control 75% of the global discretionary spending by 2028. Needless to say, she’s an important force to consider.


That’s “Value Prestige” as termed by London’s The Future Laboratory. In the US, more than 50 new outlet centers have been built since 2006, with just 2 new regional malls developed in that same time span. In the UK, the “Squeezed Middle” regularly shops a high/low strategy, a trend that helped discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl expand rapidly.


In addition to keeping our bodies going, food is a new source of growth for shopping centers too. In 2015 in the United States, people spent more money on dining out than on groceries, a trend that shows no signs of letting up. Malls are responding by adding high-end restaurants, more healthy dining options, local food offerings, online order and mall pick up, and even farmer’s markets and community gardens. Pusateri’s Food Hall, a 25,000 sq. ft addition to Sax Fifth Avenue, is Toronto’s first food hall in half a century.


Even a few years ago, ideas like drone delivery, manufacturing on demand, and robot parking seemed to be the stuff of the imagination. Today, retailers from Melbourne to LA are delivering on these ideas. Michael Fox, the CEO of Australia’s Shoes of Prey predicts that demand retail will dominate the market in 10-20 years, delivering “ultra-bespoke” products with minimal wait time.

Maybe it’s true that change is hard to predict, challenging to understand and difficult to plan for. But the new retail climate is offering chances to renew our businesses in exciting ways that we may never have thought of otherwise. There’s always room for optimism when we see challenges as opportunities. 

Katie Sprague

Brand Strategist, CallisonRTKL Associates (213) 633-1140 Ask me a question
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