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The World We Live In, Part 1

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The oft-quoted phrase, “the only thing certain in life is change” has never been truer than it is today. The pace of change has accelerated in recent years on account of more readily available technology and constantly evolving consumer tastes. And while it can be difficult for any retailer to keep up with the pace of change, doing so is often the difference between failure and survival.

We’ve quickly shifted from a consumption-driven society to more of an experience and connection-driven world. The shared economy is growing and, for some, the acquisition of physical goods is decreasingly viewed as desirable. The need to acquire a collection of unique experiences, however, has gained significant social cachet in recent years. ‘Doing now’ trumps ‘owning’ in the eyes of many consumers.

Individuals are also behaving much differently than they did in the past. With income inequality on the rise, consumers are comparison shopping, looking for discounts and avoiding the free-spending habits of yore. And while only a few decades ago, Billy Joel’s rock anthem “Movin’ Out” celebrated the common desire for youth to move out of their parent’s house and strike out on their own, Millennials today may not be able to relate to this rite of passage. Whether due to personal preferences, convenience or sheer economics, the number of young adults living with their parents has increased by 25% since 1996.

And for all this talk of Millennials, let’s not forget about Gen Z. Born between 1995 and 2012, they are fast adopters and extremely entrepreneurial. They conduct thorough research before purchasing anything and their consumption cycles mimic short, intense bursts of buying. They are independent, altruistic, and idealistic. Given these unique characteristics, brands must change how they relate to this new demographic.

Michael Gatti is a principal in Gensler’s New York Office and a Retail Practice Area Leader. A licensed architect in multiple states, his portfolio reads like a luxury shopping mall directory. During his 20 plus year career, he has designed and built spaces, not only for anchor department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, but tenant spaces for Cartier, Burberry, Diesel, Loro Piana, Chanel and Montblanc. He believes that a retail architect/designer must understand who the client IS or, better yet, who they WANT to be…. and help them achieve it in their stores. Contact him at michael_gatti@gensler.com.

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