Niche services to change the face of retail, says adviser

The days of the mass market are nearing an end, and by 2015 consumers will want greater atmosphere, experiences, quality and services from niche retailers, retail development adviser Alistair Lorimer told members of the Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association (GIMA) last week.

He outlined how demographic and cultural changes will impact on garden retailing over the next seven years. Translating a US-based report by accounting firm PWC on retailing's future into how changes will hit the UK garden retail sector, Lorimer explored what suppliers and retailers will need to do for success.

He warned that fundamental changes were coming and the current garden centre model would age rapidly because it was too focused on mass merchandising and price.

Instead, shopping would become a more emotional experience with consumers seeking more individually tailored products. The mass market would fragment and niche retailing would return, he said.

The changes would be driven by two demographic shifts. Baby boomers turning 70 would redefine retirement by remaining active for longer: "They will be the wealthiest old people we have ever seen."

The digital generation would also begin having families and were different from baby boomers. "They're less enamoured by conglomerates and chain stores, and more interested in recreation. They will shop differently and are more likely to shop multi-channel. Their minds will be open to change."

Meeting the expectations of those two groups would bring benefits, but it would be a challenge to get the right products to the market.

"Consumers are getting more complex and you will need to work to understand them," Lorimer said.

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