The Future of Retail was Up for Debate at Day Two of NRF 19
Day two of NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show carried on the momentum from the first day. In the opening panel, CNBC’s Steve Liesman sat down with Janet Yellen, former president of the Federal Reserve System, and Recode co-founder and editor-at-large Kara Swisher to talk about what economic trends were impacting retail and where the industry is headed.
Straight from the get-go, Swisher made her prediction for the future, repeating twice, “There’s not going to be stores someday.” Though this prediction would be challenged in the following session, Swisher’s point was clear: digital and experiential stores are the future of retail.
“Economies change all the time,” Swisher said. “I saw a payphone recently and I thought it was a ghost.”
Not everyone believes brick-and-mortar is on its last legs, however. Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, had a very different view of the industry in the session directly following Swisher, Yellen, and Liesman. Cornell believes that the future is neither all-physical or all-digital.
“People are recognizing there has been a merging of physical and digital,” he said. “It’s not an either-or. It’s an ‘and’ environment.”
Cornell then laid out his four keys for the future of retail:
- Always start with the consumer
- Be willing to reinvest
- Disrupt yourself
- Invest in your own strengths and play your own game
No matter what the future holds for retail, it’s clear digital will be a major player and consumers will drive the decision making. Cornell said as much toward the end of his speech.
“There’s always going to be a next-generation of consumers,” Cornell said. “You always have to put the customer at the center of everything you make.”
As 2019 continues, the entire retail industry will stay tuned to what trends and ideas will drive this next-generation of consumers to buy. At this point, it remains to be seen which options will reign supreme: the experiential and digital-focused stores that Swisher talked about or the brands that best balance physical and digital experiences.