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Rental and learning future for retail

News, 09 February 2016
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LONDON/NEW YORK: To succeed in the future, bricks-and-mortar retailers may have to adopt lessons from the sharing economy and from social media, a new study has suggested.

For its report, How We Shop Now: What's Next?, Westfield, the shopping mall owner, interviewed experts and more than 13,000 shoppers across its own malls in the US and UK to identify consumer trends that will shape retailers' future.

One of these is the spread of the Uber/Airbnb business model into new areas. Some 15% of Americans indicated an interest in renting from their favourite stores, a figure that leapt to 35% among millennials.

As an example of the sort of thing envisioned, the study revealed that almost one quarter (23%) of New Yorkers interested in renting would spend $200 or more on an unlimited clothing rental subscription.

But exercise equipment topped the list of what people wanted to rent (17%), followed by consumer electronics (15%), furniture (11%) and cars (10%).

The study also identified "classroom retail" as a trend, with many shoppers wanting to learn new skills and build their social networks. Around one third (32%) of those surveyed expressing an interest in attending a lifestyle lesson at their favourite store.

Three other key themes emerge from the research, including the likelihood that virtual reality will become ubiquitous as shoppers seek to understand how products ranging from clothes to furniture will work for them specifically.

There is also a new consumer demand for loyalty programs that reward good lifestyle choices, ranging from recycling to healthier eating and charity volunteering.

And "sensory retail" will be increasingly important, with screen-addicted consumers deprived of wider physical experiences.

"This is arguably the most exciting time in retailing history," said Myf Ryan, Chief Marketing Officer, Westfield UK and Europe. "Retailers have to be brave and innovative, identifying what shoppers will want in the future by offering genuine added value to create an experience that cannot exist online."

For example, "Fashion stores of tomorrow might look radically different – bringing shoppers through the doors to attend a vintage clothing club, rewarding them financially for recycling their old clothes, helping them pick a new outfit with virtual reality and then loaning it to them for a party at the weekend."

Data sourced from Westfield; additional content by Warc staff

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