GDR CEO Kate Ancketill reflects on retail in 2018

Dec 20, 2018

GDR CEO Kate Ancketill looks to the positives and predicts we’ll see more locally optimised offers, an explosion of new store formats and more hybridisation in 2019

Kate’s thoughts were first published in Retail Focus’s Retail Trends 2019 feature. Click here to read the whole article.


It’s headline grabbing to be a doom-monger and suggest that 2018 will be remembered for store closures (up 17% in the first 6 months), the decline of anchor department stores and severely challenged high streets. While there’s no doubt retail is pivoting, with inevitable growing pains, I think with hindsight we’ll see this period as indicative of the shift towards retail built around the smartphone, rather than the car.

Look at Nike’s By You store in LA. It’s stocked based on the interests and purchases of local NikePlus members. Each customer gets a personal welcome and recommendations, and digital integrations allow them to reserve shoes to try-on, search the brand’s local inventory and complete purchase in-app.

In 2019 I expect to see more stores like this that are both physical and digital hubs, and that put customers in complete control; allowing them to start, pause and complete their shopping journeys whenever and wherever they want. Alibaba’s Jack Ma calls this New Retail – “the integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain”.

Former Iceland and Wickes CEO and author of The Grimsey Review, Bill Grimsey, predicts community, rather than retail, will soon become the anchor of UK’s high streets. I fully agree. 21st century retail, because of e-commerce and New Retail integration, doesn’t need as much space. Stores will be smaller, but they’ll be smarter, more experiential and micro-fragmented, like US department store Nordstrom’s Local stores, which started rolling out at the very end of 2017. These hold no permanent stock but act more like upmarket click-and-collect changing rooms, with additional hybrid services like tailoring and beauty treatments.

In 2019 we’ll see more optimisation of local inventories based on the online behaviours of local shoppers, more fragmentation of formats according to time and location, and more hybridisation.

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