The rise of the Internet and online shopping has threatened to reshape retail construction like no other event.
Throughout modern history people have congregated at markets and pubic shopping areas, which in themselves, create a thriving industry need and sector to cater for. This has been fulfilled through the creation of spaces that function as direct consumer seller meeting places, which come in the form of retail buildings and shopping centres.
The retail sector in the 21st century has seen peak after peak as a spreading capitalist mentality moved globally, bringing with it the idea of consumerism and growing excess, which has fuelled the growth in retail construction and design. Giant shopping centres have become commonplace in all major cities of the world and shopping has gone from a necessity driven activity to a leisure pursuit.
However – with the rise of the online retail sector some analysts have expressed their concerns that the industry retail sector will take a hit, and over time, even become obsolete. That notion too is divided, with others believing with the foods and services facet of the Australian retail sector sitting at 59%, a section of the market that has traditionally followed a retailer to consumer buying channel, physical shopping spaces will remain in tact.
We have, however, seen South Korea’s answer to food and service retailer spaces, which is an idea that may throw a spanner in the works for those who stand by the idea that the fresh produce sector will stop the extinction of the physical shopping space.
What the South Korean’s have created is a virtual supermarket with interiors that are so much more complex than a simple retail fitout. The virtual Home Plus supermarket is located in the South Seoul subway (a very convenient place for some of the world’s hardest workers to pick up supplies on their commute home) where consumers can purchase products from coloured glass covered posters lining the walls using their Smartphones. Groceries are then delivered to the homes of buyers at the time of their arrival.
The popularity of this virtual shopping experience is proving to be great, and it only stands to reason that there is a potential for it to take the place of the physical supermarket.
So why do we still go back to the physical shopping environments if we have so many other virtual options?
For the most part, it is the shopping experience. There is reassurance in tactile purchasing and many enjoy the experience of shopping.
In relation to industry relevance, it is the designs of these buildings that keep bringing us back. Design innovation has come so far that viewing retail fitouts is often a leisurely experience in itself, especially now that interiors are having to be more striking while offering to act as a physical manifestation of what the brand represents in order to attract consumers.
Technology will continue to advance, with the online world continuing to create spaces that would otherwise be in the physical. However, as shopping increasingly becomes an experience of leisure rather than a chore, massive centres will continue to expand and the industry retail section will continue to survive, even if it does not boom.