Tomorrow's City, Today's Challenge is a unique campaign, launched at MIPIM UK in 2014. 60% of the world's population will live in cities by 2030 and our campaign looks at what we need to do today to prepare for that change. We've had some fantastic input from industry leaders.

Live to Shop or Shop to Live?

Our most recent debate was on retail in Tomorrow's City – Live to Shop or Shop to Live?

Panellists Belinda Earl (Marks & Spencer), Steve Sunnucks (formerly Gap, Inc.) and Professor Laura Vaughan (University College London) bagged up key retail trends in an eclectic and wide ranging discussion.

After listening to them all, the main items on our shopping list are:

  •  A retailer's best customers shop there online and in store. Boden and Amazon are experimenting with physical shops. Savvy retailers know that their internet presence is an integral part of their offering, and the store must offer a brand experience which is better than sitting at home in front of a screen. How will turnover rents adapt to capture this?
  • High Streets thrive and flourish when they're part of a diverse local economy (retail will only be about 30% of this). A great High Street has mixed uses, varied building types and it's all eminently walkable. Can planning laws be flexible enough to respond to changes in society but at the same time be robust enough to maintain a healthy High Street ecology?
  • The worldwide web helps small and obscure retailers, who can reach a wide audience on line. But it has its limits: you can't get a tattoo on line. A local "feel" is important, even for global brands. So what should be done to protect a global brand while simultaneously demonstrating that brand belongs locally too?
  • The big trends in retail are value brands, premium brands and the internet. But the internet brings different challenges and opportunities to each sort of brand. The long term impact of these trends is still unclear. Meanwhile investors need to be alive to the impact on their portfolio value and the shape of tomorrow's retail space. Our straw poll of attendees was evenly split on whether they'd invest in internet capability and warehousing, or traditional shops and malls.

And finally... no-one on the panel was willing to predict the year when internet sales would overtake traditional sales – or even to concede that the internet would win in the end!


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