1. Smaller retail footprints: No more department stores and fewer sprawling lower-end antiques centres.
I believe this trend was already appearing before Covid-19, but this pandemic will accelerate it.
2. Mixing retailing and services: I expect to see large centres partnering with coffee shops, bakers, authors, artists or similar to collaborate in bringing a mixed service and retail experience to life.
The best way to keep people in an antiques centre is to offer services that fill their needs, such as Wi-Fi, well-arranged and chosen selling spaces and coffee, plus your products and make it a destination ‘experience’. Older customers also appreciate a chair to sit on.
3. The ongoing growth of ethical retailing: this is actually a plus for us as our products should be 100% recycled. The bad part is it will be according to William Morris’ principles, ie items you can use or hang on the wall, so do appraise the stock regularly and if you yourself would not use it, pass it on. The converse of this is proper labelling with age, facts and description will matter as at present ours is the only profession that hides behind masks such as ‘in the style of’ on repro.
4. Specialisation: the future is for more specialised dealers selling online – and in a shop where possible – to a world audience. My personal business does 80% online which has grown from nothing during the past 20 years. The days of centres full of cheap low-end ‘bric a brac’ or stylish repro are limited as China will cease to provide low-end, low-margin items, as with increased shipping costs as they will become more picky.
5. Collaborations: Working together is absolutely the way of the future. Think rent-sharing, cost-sharing, staff-sharing and mix specific products ie a picture dealer with a furniture dealer.
In the future, the high-cost centres and landlords that charge a fortune for little return will find their dealers walking. Many have not adjusted rents through this outbreak and kept their centres closed even for dealers wanting access to stock. It can no longer be one-way traffic – if they want the rent they will need to work with the dealer.
6. Mature digital customers: the opportunity to increase a digital and e-commerce offering for older-aged or baby-boomer customers is on the rise. This outbreak has forced many people to access products and services they may have never used before.
This will create an opportunity for new habits and the reduction of fear around online ordering, but be prepared to answer patiently what may seem to you to be basic questions on the phone or email – they are learning new skills.
7. Rents: with rents being astronomical and so many large retailers folding in the past two years, landlords will need to think twice about their rents, because soon, they won’t be able to fill their spaces. It’s going to become a renters’ market.
Now is the time to become more innovative and to really think about your customers’ needs, so join with a mate and move from an expensive prime property into a larger, cheaper one with better parking. Make and design your own mini-centre and simply divide the costs.