Despite all the benchmarking, researching and strategizing carried out by retailers, putting together a forward plan for anything more than a few years ahead can sometimes seem like more of an exercise in crystal ball gazing than actual business planning. However, that’s not to say retailers can ignore the need for some long term thinking.
In a recent super session at Retail’s BIG Show, Ira Kalish, Director of Global Economics for Deloitte Research, gave an all-encompassing overview on the state of the global retail industry ten years from now, as well as his take on what the consumer of the future will look like. (The information Kalish presented was based on Deloitte’s “Changing Shape of the Global Economy” report, which was available to show attendees.)
Kalish kicked off with a run through of recent developments in global retailing, noting that it’s always useful to think about the future by reviewing the past.
In particular, Kalish highlighted some of the paths that lead towards the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 and the lessons that were learned from that crisis: massive consumer leveraging in the U.S., U.K. and Spain; the collapse of the asset price bubble; emerging currencies rising; U.S. consumers paying down debts and saving more; housing no longer being seen as a source of economic growth; China’s move towards consumerism and consumer spending rising as a source of GDP; and the challenges faced in Europe due to imbalances between countries like Germany and Portugal, Ireland and Spain.
As for what retailers can expect in the consumer economy of 2020, Kalish pointed to a number of challenges and opportunities retailers should certainly have on their long term radar, such as the massive increase in emerging middle classes and the disproportionate share of growth in emerging areas of the world like Indonesia, Colombia and Africa.
The effects of an aging population in an increasingly affluent world will also be a key consideration for retailers of all shapes and sizes, while hot markets with younger demographics (India, Middle East and Africa) will also keep global retailers on their toes.
Kalish also noted, the impact of obesity, changing global food market dynamics, an ever-increasing focus on sustainability and the possibility of a social media revolution could play a heavy role within the consumer economy of 2020.
So what can retailers do to prepare for this new consumer outlook? Kalish believes that aligning company values with those of consumers will be critically important, as will leading and listening to customers. Taking care of your brands, your people and your investments will also pay dividends when it comes to engaging with consumers, something that will be fundamental for 2020’s consumer (and not a bad idea for 2011).