I know there have already been many commentators holding forth on the outcome of the general election, but as a candidate for the second time in two years, I felt I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
As some of you may know I was a candidate for the Green Party in 2015 and I was nominated to do it again for the snap election.
I said in 2015 that our industry needed to have a conversation about where the consumer society will take us.
I appreciate that within the confines of a retail trade publication this is probably heresy, but it’s a logical proposition that the economy simply can’t continue to expand forever and at some point we’ll see a permanent slowdown.
It’s also logical to assume that retailers will be at the sharp end of that.
Already I think we’re seeing signs of saturation consumerism and buyer fatigue.
“When I started as a retailer nearly 30 years ago, terms such as retail therapy were prevalent, but now the focus is on experience shopping”
When I started as a retailer nearly 30 years ago, terms such as retail therapy were prevalent, but now the focus is on experience shopping.
Recent figures have suggested a decline in both footfall and consumer confidence. These figures constantly fluctuate of course and the current political uncertainty probably isn’t helping.
But looking to the US as a bellwether, we see high-profile names such as Michael Kors planning to shutter up to 125 stores, with other brands such as Bebe, Guess, Wet Seal and The Limited closing all high-street locations in favour of trading purely online.
This seems to fly in the face of more mall openings, such as in my hometown of Oxford later this year, but landlords and developers continue to operate on a higher plane than most mortal retailers.
Meanwhile a grassroots sector seems to be emerging based on almost forgotten principles of repair rather than replacement.
For example, there are now mobile phone workshops going beyond simple screen replacements and offering repair at the circuit board level. Domestic appliance maintenance services are also reportedly having trouble keeping up with demand.
Vintage clothing is enjoying a resurgence, while in the US there’s a movement taking the idea to another level by encouraging the revitalisation and repair of used garments.
Tellingly, most of these new ventures, such as renewalworkshop.com and thredup.com are based online only,
So perhaps Green principles of sustainability and recycling are not so far from the high street as many may believe.
Quite how all this fits into what has become the more traditional models of retailing we’ve seen over the past 20 or 30 years remains to be seen, but I’m betting the shift in societal tone we saw during the election may soon be more fully reflected in the way a great many people choose to shop in the future.