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‘Store of the Future’ Study Released by Canadian Innovation Group FashionTech: Interview

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Despite all the changes and uncertainty of the past year or so due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report says retailers will be coming back even stronger and better positioned for disruption and reimagining.

Ashley Barby

FashionTech, a global community for innovators and information seekers at the intersection of fashion and technology, released the report with the intent of helping the fashion community navigate the key elements of the store of the future and build the foundation of a new era in fashion that is inherently enabled by technology.

“As we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic we’ve had a chance to pause, reassess the retail landscape, and question just what type of long-term impact the pandemic induced disruption will have on long-term retail,” said FashionTech Founder Ashley Barby.

Founded in 2018, FashionTech is a global community for innovators and information seekers at the intersection of fashion and technology. It connects professionals through various channels while delivering leading industry insights. FashionTech provides programming through webinars, speaker series, professional networking opportunities, white papers, case studies and ongoing industry analysis.

“When FashionTech started we were much focused on community building, establishing connections, and when COVID hit obviously that kind of went by the wayside. We switched to digital programming and we actually realized the huge demand for some type of analysis or even thought leadership around what does this post-COVID store or this store of the future look like,” said Barby.

“We just found out that we were really in this interesting position where we are connected to the leaders in this industry and some of the innovators and we were able to publish this report based on those conversations and this network we established prior to COVID based on the mission of FashionTech.”

FashionTech recently released the detailed report, called Store of the Future, that uncovers the future of fashion retail in Canada and around the world. Highlighting market leaders such as Burberry, Apple, IKEA, and ReflektMe, the white paper takes a deep dive into how these companies are bridging the gap between the digital and in-person shopping experience.

The report emphasizes how despite all the changes and uncertainty of the past year, retailers will be coming back even stronger and better positioned for disruption and reimagining. The intention of the report is to help the fashion community navigate the key elements of the store of the future, and build the foundation of a new era in fashion that is inherently enabled by technology. 

IKEA Design Studio-Oshawa (Image: IKEA)

“Before COVID we saw that technology was kind of seen as a periphery tool to the business of retail. COVID made it a central component to even existing as a business. So without technology, retailers couldn’t exist. There’s no way to contact their customers, interact, fulfill orders. I think the biggest impact we’ve seen is that technology has become pivotal as opposed to kind of one of those useful handy tools retailers had in their pockets prior to COVID,” said Barby.

She said the report was interesting because it began in the middle of COVID when retailers were still finding their way. 

“Overall, the main thing that we found, and this was something that was happening prior to COVID, and it just accelerated, is that customers want to connect directly with brands and retailers and they expect to do that through digital means. This old fashioned orientation of retail where there’s a store, you walk in and talk to an associate, you connect and transact on the retailer’s terms and you walk away, that doesn’t exist anymore,” added Barby.

“Customers want to connect and they want to be immersed in brands where it’s convenient to them and that’s often through digital channels.

“Retailers need to get past this idea of having retail channels. Consumers expect to transact and interact with retailers where and when it’s convenient to them. So there’s this expectation for this fluid interaction back between a store and a digital connection with an associate and ecomm presence. There can’t be barriers between those transaction channels. There needs to be this fluid, seamless integration between all of those and I think that’s kind of the direction that consumers are expecting to go and where they’re already interacting in and now it’s just a matter of retailers catching up to those expectations.”

The report is on FashionTech’s website, at fashiontech.ca/store-of-the-future

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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