Shop Talk: Chains look to creative future

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  ‘Creativity’ is becoming a key word in the future of the retail industry. National chain stores are looking for new ways to thrive in a world of online shopping.

“Nowadays it’s just the online retailers have found away to get to the customer needs and desires,” Kirk Moriarty of Greater Fort Wayne explained.

Now it’s time for brick and mortar stores to find their ways of connecting to their customers. The goal used to be bigger stores and bigger inventory. In the future, creativity will be king, blurring the line between in-store customer interactions and online convenience.

“I went to Macy’s just to get a sense of what’s going on. Now they’re trying to borrow these cool things from Amazon,” Nichaya Suntornphithug, Ph.D. said. “If they don’t have products available, they say ‘would you like to buy online?’ And it’s free delivery.”

Department stores, like Macy’s have been the hardest hit in this retail climate. forcing them to try new things to survive.

“You cannot separate physical shopping and online shopping. You have to bring them together,” Suntornphithug added.

Another key part of the future of retail are events and experience. While the future of shopping malls is unknown, you can see, even locally, their efforts to stay relevant. Jefferson Pointe, for example, has seen national retailers move out, leaving empty spaces. People still come in droves, celebrating holidays and listening to live music.

One big factor is keeping a select group pf national chains around longer… those who carry food.

“Technology is becoming a more critical part of our lives and customers are shopping online,” Meijer Director of Digital Shopping Art Sebastian said.

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found people are more hesitant to shop for food online, but that;s not stopping stores like Meijer from trying to make it work. The regional retailer introduced home delivery to our area earlier this year.

“Now we’re giving customers multiple ways to shop. It’s really about convenience. We know that people are busy and looking for a way to save a few hours. We feel that this does that,” Sebastian added.

Speaking of online grocery shopping, something else interesting is happening, worth to keep an eye on in the future. It’s called AmazonGo. It’s a test store with no check out. Your phone keeps track of your order and charges your amazon account.

“Think about it. 90% of the people who go to the mall or retailers have a mobile phone, and 80% of them use that phone to help them make decisions to purchase the products,” Suntornphithug explained.

The retail landscape is changing before our eyes and could look entirely different in the years ahead. Short-term though, expect more big box store to file for bankruptcy and announce closures across the country. Locally, economic leaders are optimistic the impact of this change will be minimal.

“Thank our lucky stars, there’s still a good amount of activity that goes on in those stores. You can credit that to some of the supportive retail units that have been imparted throughout and credit our community’s planning in making certain there’s not too much or not enough, Moriarty said.