Euroshop provides an insight into how retailers are thinking.
Today, like the last two days, your correspondent will be joining the thronging retail masses pounding the walkways at Euroshop. There’s more than 100,000 sq m of space devoted to shop equipment and if most visitors were to be honest about things, after a day or so, you could show them the crown jewels and they would probably be dismissed, so much is there on view.
All of this could hardly be termed therapeutic and the search to try and locate the next thing characterises the efforts of many who visit this feast of fixturing. And to be equally frank, if I have to look at another shop shelving system in the next month or so it might just tip the balance towards considering another career option.
That said, if you do enough of this sort of thing in a concentrated burst, themes do become apparent, whether you want them to or not. And while things green may have taken something of a back seat to saving money for many shoppers, you wouldn’t know it if you beamed down from planet Tharg to Euroshop. Everything was about efficiency and energy saving – but with a twist. Very little of what’s on show is about planet saving - most of it is concerned with new ways that retailers can save money operationally, a trait more likely to appeal to even the most hardened retail climate-change sceptic.
The other point is that the retail green movement does now seem to have some fairly set ways of doing things. On Saturday, the EuroShop retail design conference featured one session in which the speaker, from German grocer Rewe, talked about an eco-store in Berlin. It was, a little predictably, made of wood and looked like a layering of the homespun on the very modern.
But hang on, didn’t Tesco do something like this in the north of Scotland three or four years ago? It did, it was in Wick and to the layman it would appear that little has changed in the intervening period. Perhaps the real lesson out of time spent at Euroshop is that green is just the norm – it’s not really for shoppers, although it’s probably nice if they approve, but it is now focused on saving money.
And with everybody from the new director of store formats at Tesco, to the head architect from Harrods busy looking around, it seems probable that green will continue to matter, but that unless it provides a real return on investment, it may not always win favour. It’s the way it should be really, shops remain shops, not charitable bursaries.