COMMENT: Retail ready for a new lease of life
One of the few saving graces of the current financial crisis will be a new and more efficient fashion retail landscape when the recovery ends.
The high street we have become accustomed to over the past century is inadvertently being given a much-needed makeover.
As Mango's international VP Isak Halfon eludes here in Barcelona, Darwin's theory has it that the strong will survive and the weak will die out.
This morning at the World Retail Congress just-style learnt that even when the global economy does recover, the current model of retailing will have changed for good.
Grumpy shop assistants, racks of assorted garments, dingy fitting rooms and checkout queues are soon to become symptoms of a time when retailing was easy.
They will make way for transformer garments, interactive customer profiles and social shopping, according to three presentations on the future of retailing by FIT New York, Hong Kong Polytechnic and the London Fashion Academy.
Students pitched ideas for a fashion retail concept aimed at 18-21 year-old consumers, to be realised by 2012. Their ideas will be judged by 800 people at this year's congress and a panel including New Look chairman Phil Wrigley.
First up was the New York team, and their idea - called Mint Fashion - immediately drew people in with pictures of 'transformer' garments.
Using 3-D technology they would market skirts that change length depending on the weather, ties that change patterns using downloadable data and spray-on fabrics.
Their fitting rooms would have huge screens showing beach, city, nightclub backdrops depending on what the garment was being bought for.
The students estimate that 18-21 year-olds spend an average of two and a half hours online per day, and the London team wants to target this through their Asos-inspired idea.
Customers could login to their online store, put garments on their virtual bodies and search for products using celebrity and city style guides.
All their ideas would be available on mobile phones, because the number of internet devices is rising along with an audience topping 50m.
Finally, Hong Kong Polytechnic's futuristic plans included customer RFID card to store purchase history and sizes, and sustainable shop features like solar panelled roofs and a floor that creates electricity when you walk on it.
In short, fashion retailers hoping they can ride out the storm by merely surviving the current economic slump are misguided, because the challenge is only just starting.
By Joe Ayling, in Barcelona.
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