in many ways, the “future” as we pictured it several decades ago never arrived. There are no Skypads—such as the home George Jetson, Jane his wife, daughter Judy and son Elroy lived in (Yes, there’s the space station, but it’s for astronauts only). There are no compact space cars or jet packs to tool around the galaxy, either. Yet, as imaginative as that cartoon series was, even its creators couldn’t have imagined some of the products available today. Personal computers, digital cameras, HDTV and so on, really are products of the future, now available at retail. But with the exception of the internet, most retailers are selling product, just like they were years ago. So what does the store of the future (and today) look like? And what is its role in the world of retail?
“There will be more use of technology—especially in the photographic industry—to sell merchandise and to instruct both consumers and salespeople. And if there isn’t, it’s a mistake,” says Ben Weshler, President and CEO, The DSI Group—who now call themselves Ovation In-Store—which designs, develops and manufactures displays and fixtures for retail merchandising environments. According to Weshler, the industry has assumed an “Alice in Wonderland” quality with digital signage systems, self-checkout kiosks, plasma screens and other paraphernalia transforming the retail landscape. “The real challenge,” he says, “is how to apply these technologies to engage, inform and educate consumers at retail.
“We are now dealing with a consumer that is more knowledgeable, more demanding, more savvy in their product choices and certainly more pressed for time,” adds Weshler. “Our challenge as marketers and developers of in-store solutions is to work together in this new climate to create an environment that seizes ‘best practices’ to meet consumer and retailer needs and help fulfill product and brand objectives.”