Are we nearing the end of the big-box era? The retail sector has a huge impact on many key plastics markets -- housewares, packaging, appliances, electronics, toys and many more. So it is important to note that some experts believe the retail sector is preparing for huge changes -- and perhaps the recession is accelerating the trend. Al Meyers, senior vice president of business development of TNS Retail Forward in Plano, Texas, spoke this week at the International Council of Shopping Centers' annual Fusion Conference, held in Hollywood, Fla. His topic -- how retailers will change between now and 2015. According to this report on GlobeSt.com, Meyers expects retailers to change in order to serve smaller slices of the demographic pie. Stores will need to be smaller and more targeted in the future. The report notes that retailers are being forced to market themselves to an audience that is both older and younger, richer and more cash strapped, and tech-savvy and decidedly not. They must adapt their approaches, layout and store sizes to accommodate the changing market. The aging baby boom generation will be responsible for many of the changes.
“Aging boomers are one of the most dramatic disruptive waves we'll ever experience,” Meyers said. Boomers will want smaller, closer stores that are easier to shop, with larger signage or lettering for convenience, Meyers warned. Yet they will be more connected to stores, brands and each other via technology, reducing the need for traditional brick-and-mortar formats. “We'll have an endless supply of kiosks to offer unlimited supply,” Meyers said. New opportunities to fill space may be found in local and regional retailers, and even product brands, which may be forced out of some stores as retailers push their own more profitable private labels. In fact, stores will be only a part of the focus of any retail project. “The space becomes the destination,” Meyers said.Meanwhile, Generation Yers are beginning to buy homes and have children. But as they enter their peak spending years, they have a different attitude about shopping than their parents did. "The main problem is that they're broke,” in part because of massive college loans, he said. I wish retailers the best of luck trying to sell stuff to the "broke" generation. Perhaps this trend has already started. The Wall Street Journal notes today that that shoppers around the world are showing preferences for less expensive and store-branded products. The story cites a new Nielsen Co. report. "Consumers can be pretty gradual in their change of behavior," said James Russo, Nielsen's vice president of marketing. "But what this recession has showed us is that consumers are making changes quickly." Globally, the study found consumers cutting back on purchases and moving to store brands. One possible exception: China, where consumers prefer name brands because of concerns about product safety.