While walking the floor of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City this week, one of the last conversations I expected to have with anyone was about the future of retail. The main hall of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was littered with mind bending installations, from incredible lighting structures, to abstract pieces of furniture, alongside some unique TV mounting systems, handmade crafts, art, and much more.
But tucked away in the corner of the floor reserved for universities was the Appalachian State University booth, which had a large piece of signage attached to it that read “Future of Retail.” If their intention was to speak directly to the editor of a B2B publication that focuses on retail then, well, mission accomplished.
In talking with Michael Rall, an assistant professor of Industrial Design at the school, I learned that the booth was born out of the Future of Retail project at App State, which aims to revolutionize the traditional retail environment in a way that will enable brick and mortar retail to thrive in a digital first world. The project itself, Rall said, was developed as a result of some pretty innocent conversations about how our phones today gather information about us and drive our online shopping experience with targeted ads and the like. The program is a collaboration involving the Apparel Design & Merchandising, Industrial Design, and Interior Design programs at Appalachian State.