Staying in touch with the youth market is more about taking their pulse than trying to wow them with gadgets. Or so says Rip Curl Europe chief executive Olivier Cantet, who Retail Week caught up with yesterday at an event on the beach outside Barcelona appropriately.

The surf brand boss says that his increasing store portfolio, combined with the real-time systems the company has invested in, gives him great visibility of what his customers want. Whether they are making purchases at Rip Curl’s Newquay store, a city centre shop in Paris or in far-flung locations such as Oslo or Moscow, he can see what sells.

What he has decided doesn’t sell is trying to impress them with in-store gadgets. He says that, because the youth market is so tech-savvy, even a funky brand like Rip Curl could end up providing only a watered-down version of what a teenager could do at home.

Cantet explains: “Kids are used to having so many things through their own computers – if you bring something in, it has to be brilliant.” He prefers to use simple plasma screens to show videos of what his products can do.

Today’s Rip Curl customer is the mainstream consumer of the not-to-distant future.

The prospect that the customer-facing in-store technology used by grocers, furniture stores or even opticians will have to be as good as anything available on the internet is scary. But if Cantet’s experience is anything to go by, it’s a reality more retailers will have to face.