Light and fluffy shopper engagement may work for a time, but that time is not 2018.

Friday was, apparently, National Popcorn Day in the US, a moment to celebrate a light, fluffy, insubstantial snack. The same might be said of the approach that is being taken to stores at the moment.

At the various retail shows over the past few months, there have been any number of ‘solutions’ to problems in retail that probably don’t exist, but a will-o’-the-wisp answer is nonetheless ready and at hand.

Sometimes, however, there is something new that has a practical application. ‘Virtual mirrors’ have almost become a comedy piece, trotted out as a means of engaging millennials with short attention spans.

Owing to always being in search of the next new thing, the same millennials have tired of sending images of themselves wearing today’s must-haves, and the mirrors sit unused in shops.

A contrast might be drawn between this and a fitting room mirror that confronts shoppers in Mango’s flagship store on Broadway in New York’s SoHo.

“2018 may be the watershed moment when in-store retail gets real after a protracted period of wondering which new thing to put into a store”

Wave a garment’s barcode in front of this one and an image of it appears in the mirror with the available colours and size range. Now try it on and suppose that you want a different size and colour.

Touching the size and colour buttons on the mirror triggers a notice that appears on watches worn by sales associates elsewhere in the shop who then go in search of the required garment.

This is a practical use of a tech mirror in a fitting room that not only engages but also ensures that there is a reason to use it more than once.

Yet popcorn retail solutions continue to appear. Given current retail results, however, this could just be the year in which the fluffy, easily consumed retail snack hits the wall.

Get real

This is not the time for fripperies, even if they do look pretty good when seen for the first time, freshly installed in a shop.

2018 may be the watershed moment when in-store retail gets real after a protracted period of wondering which new thing to put into a store.

‘Shops that make people shop’ may sound a simpleton’s mantra, but this is what is needed and this should be the focus for any retailer looking at a refurbishment programme over the next 12 months.

Enough of the tech that serves little or no purpose. No more geegaws and be done with today’s trend that is tomorrow’s waste.

Tech can be very useful, as Mango shows, but real shops for real shoppers should be the aim for all those with physical portfolios.