New Retail Ideas And Tech On Full Display At ICSC
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LAS VEGAS — Projection-based video storefronts for advertisements, dressing rooms with 3D body scanners and an indoor hydroponic system to possibly supply a mall's food court restaurants with fresh greens — the possible future of retail was on display at International Council of Shopping Centers' RECon.
The annual global retail real estate convention, 37,000 attendees strong, held several panels on the importance of technology and innovation in the evolving industry and brought in speakers and companies that are expected to make a big splash in the coming years as retailers work to keep people coming to brick-and-mortar storefronts and big-box stores.
"The fact of the matter is, retailers needs to innovate or they are going to go out of business," XRC Labs Managing Director Pano Anthos told Bisnow after a Tuesday panel titled Trends in Retail Innovation The Need for Speed: Accelerating Retail’s Future.
XRC is a New York-based accelerator dedicated to supporting the next generation of retailers in the industry. Anthos moderated the panel.
"Consumers' tastes are changing so quickly that if the retailers don't innovate, they are falling behind and falling apart and we've already seen that," Anthos said, using Sears, Kmart and other big-box stores as an example.
Despite growing e-commerce sales, the brick-and-mortar retail outlook remains positive. In a new world of instant gratification, where any item can be purchased with a simple click, retailers with storefronts have to offer new products to set themselves apart and keep people coming back.
Check out some of the tech innovations and pilot concepts that either already have or soon will be seen at local malls and storefronts.
When it comes to visiting a mall, retail strip or any place, safety is a customer's top concern.
Silicon Valley-based Knightscope is hoping to make it much safer.
The company demonstrated three security robots — one an indoor stationary robot, another indoor and outdoor robot and an outdoor robot that was seen roaming around the convention floor.
In the case of the outdoor robots, the robots can be programmed to patrol a certain area, each have 360-degree video capabilities, two-way audio, thermal imaging and more. The robot could recognize people and license plates, Knightscope Vice President of Marketing Stacy Dean Stephens said.
A human security guard monitors the video feed, in which the recording is kept for 30 days.
The company, which launched in 2013 but didn't release a security robot until 2015, is already being used in some Westfield shopping centers, office campuses and hospitals.
In some cases, Dean said, the robots' presence has alleviated crime.
Fashion Body Scans
Imagine rather than having a tailor poke and prod you during a fitting session, you could walk inside a dressing room at a clothing store and get your body measurements.
North Carolina-based Size Stream demonstrated its 3D body-scanning and measurement platform.
Customers could walk inside a dressing room booth equipped with the 3D body scanner, get undressed down to their underwear and within four seconds, the equipment inside the booth will scan 2 million body points and 240 standard measurements.
The process takes less than a minute.
The body scanner allows clothing retailers to create custom fitting clothes.
Size Stream Vice President of Marketing Jeff Messer said the technology has been incorporated by some gyms and retailers, such as Brooks Brothers in New York.
The system cost about $15K, Messer said.
With Farmshelf's indoor hydroponic system, food retailers may no longer need to receive a shipment of lettuce, kale or other vegetables.
They could just harvest it themselves.
Hydroponics is a system of growing plants without soil.
Farmshelf's plug-and-grow system is automated, allows a retailer to grow 50 different kinds of crops and an app notifies the owner when it is time to harvest.
"It's smart vertical farming," New York-based Farmshelf's co-founder, Jean-Paul Kyrillos, said.
Setting up a system is perfect for restaurants, food halls and even mall food courts, Kyrillos said.
"If you're a mall owner and you have this system, imagine having your food court tenants to be able to harvest the vegetables and using it as part of their recipe," he said. "The vegetables are good, it cuts down waste and it's good for the environment."
He said he plans to launch the product in Q4 on the East Coast.
How many times has a customer walked into a clothing store and tried on an outfit, only to later decide not to buy the item because of sizing?
Allison Lee has done it. So have many others. And it is a frustrating experience, Lee said, not only for the customers but sales associates who may have spent time outfitting that specific person.
"It is completely inefficient," Lee said.
That is why she created Hemster in 2016. The San Francisco-based company partners with retailers, mall owners and qualified local tailors to provide fitted clothing.
A customer can now walk into a clothing store, try on an outfit and if the sizing is not right, a sales associate can use Hemster's patent-pending ruler sticker to measure how much material to alter.
Once the sale is complete, the clothing item is then sent to the mall's concierge, who contacts Hemster. Hemster then reaches out to its supply chain of local specialized tailors to alter the outfit. The turnaround time is 48 hours, Lee said.
The retailer either covers the cost of the premium service or can pass it along to the consumer, Lee said. The customer's measurements are also kept in case of future orders.
Lee just completed a pilot program at a Westfield mall in the Bay Area. She said the service has boosted sales by 15%, increased traffic and streamlined the workflow.
The days of retailers using paper or cardboard signs, banners and vinyl graphics on storefronts to advertise an upcoming sale is falling to the wayside.
Unlike those paper billboards and signs that could only communicate one message, Glass-Media's projection-based digital storefronts are much more visibly striking and, most importantly, are able to send out multiple messages to passers-by and customers.
The video displays, which could be placed indoors or outdoors, can be replenished every 60 seconds with different content, giving retailers an opportunity to communicate several advertisements.
"It's all about a seamless offline-online retail experience," Glass-Media founder Daniel Black said.
The Dallas-based company began in 2015 and is working with several brands and retailers. Black said it is looking to expand nationwide.