There are plenty of expert opinions about retailing and equally plenty of uncertainty about what the future holds. But one customer had an interesting view on where we are at.
This started as a nautical discussion about a relatively unknown British warship called the "Warrior" which absolutely revolutionised the genre with iron cladding over its wooden hull, and rifle bored cannons but the new concept didn’t last long. As revolutionary as it was, designers soon realised that they could build ships entirely of iron and they would still float. Iron cladding over wood was just an interim and all-iron ships became the long term solution.
Our scholarly customer went on to talk about word processors taking over from typewriters but that didn’t last long because we realised that computers could do word processing and a whole lot more. His point was that a revolution will often involve rapid change and it takes time to sort through the options before settling on a long term solution.
I talked to a few other customers about this type of change and asked one of them how Retailing fitted into this discussion. His response was immediate - he feels we are still very much in the middle of our revolution. He believes we will try and discard many things and some elements of what we see, particularly more customer convenience, are likely to be a large part of the final solution. But we are not there yet. Oh for a crystal ball!