The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Changing Face of Brick & Mortar

20th February 2020
Bob Dylan was right; the times they are a-changin’

It’s no secret that retail has been under a tremendous amount of pressure over the last decade. And the pressure only seems to build. The changing face of retail has seen numerous established brands close or scale back significantly in the last 12 months. EB Games, Ed Harry, Stylerunner, Harris Scarfe, Bose, Jeanswest, and Bardot are only a handful of victims of the new age of retail. 

The NRA (National Retail Association) has released a ‘Blueprint for Australian Retail Recovery’ following the challenging few months we have experienced due to the Coronavirus and bush fires. The plan (which you can read about in full here) advocates for the following steps to be taken to assist struggling retailers; 

  1. 12 month payroll tax ‘holiday’
  2. Annual Wage Review exemption for bushfire and Coronavirus affected communities
  3. Funding for financial education assistance
  4. Instant asset write-off
  5. Safe Retail precincts program extended to regional areas. 

But is this enough? No, of course not. These steps will assist retailers through hardships and rough patches, but they are not a silver bullet. Retailers all over the world need to change the way they look at physical stores and what purpose they serve.

Malls are dead?

Sure, shopping centres and malls are no longer the community hub and social hot-spot that you see in ‘Stranger Things’. You’re more likely to see a tumbleweed rolling on through the food court than kids running between cinemas and arcades. But does that mean they are dead in the water? Not by a long way. 

If you really think about what malls were in the 80’s, you’ll see that they provided experiences you could not get anywhere else. At least not in one convenient location. But now in 2020, cinemas are being replaced by Netflix, arcades are replaced by online gaming, stores are replaced by online retail, and food courts have been forced out of the game by uber eats. You know what that means, don’t ya? Adapt or die!

The future of the shopping mall and brick and mortar retail is not about shopping at all. It’s about experiences. But then again, it has always been about experiences. Experiential retail is at the heart of every successful brick and mortar store.

Augmented Reality Shopping Experience


Apple is a great example of a retailer that has tailored it’s physical stores to the needs of the consumer. While other technology companies were shutting their doors and distributing online, through telecoms, or through department stores, Apple was giving its customers a unique experience and service not focused on selling the products. From the Genius Bar through to the ability to use the technology first hand in-store. Customers then go away and buy through mobile service providers or online.

Apple Store


Luxury fashion boutique ‘Farfetch’ has utilised augmented reality to create a fun and modern shopping experience that is completely unique. In its retail store in London, Farfetch provided connected clothing racks, touch-screen-enhanced mirrors and sign-in stations that pulled data collected online to use in-store.

Customers can sign-in, review their purchase history and wish lists, which not only creates a seamless customer experience but is also a data gold mine for Farfetch.

Amazon Go

Amazon’s unconventional grocery stores in the US offer a cashier-less shopping experience for Amazon customers. As shoppers enter the store, they are automatically checked in through their phone. They then go through the store, pick out their groceries and exit the store without ever having to scan their items or talk to a cashier. Pretty much an introvert’s dream! Amazon tracks you through the store and monitors the items you pick up and put in your basket. Then it charges you through your Amazon account when you exit.

Amazon Go

Learn from the past, look to the future

To return to my premise, the future of shopping is not about shopping at all. ‘Adapt or Die’ is a phrase that has never rang more true than it does today. I for one am looking forward to the next iterations of malls, shopping centres, and retail stores. The future is full of opportunity and change, and sure, change is scary, but it is necessary for growth. So go forth, be bold, and innovate! 💪⚡

What did you think of today’s article? Let us know in the comments. 

😖 😐 😁

Written by Ben Karklins