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Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

30 Voices on 2030: What does the future hold?

Looking back to 2020, the future looked bleak. Retail was changing and all the signs of real challenge for physical stores were there. Talk was of online, stores closing, CVAs and other rent reductions. Fortunately, levels of optimism have gradually improved over the last 10 years and retail has stabilised in 2030.  

The 2020s saw customers becoming more and more reliant on their smartphone for retail purchases. The move to online continued throughout the decade, with customers ordering bulky and commodity goods first by the touch of a screen and later by voice command or even AI. 

The same smartphone technology became integrated into the retail store environment as it became possible to scan goods by smartphone, with the purchases debited seamlessly from the customer’s bank account. Customers became more adventurous as time went by, purchasing from multiple channels and from multiple retailers based on convenience, sustainability and their experience in store etc. In 2019, some commentators noticed the beginnings of this with shops such as John Lewis Partnership becoming as much a showroom as a retail store.  

Online shopping, scanning instore and bulky goods shopping are all now firmly part of the smartphone domain. Technology has advanced to enable and keep secure talk, messaging, email and banking over the same device. As cash machines and banks continued to disappear over the decade, the absence of cash in the economy became more and more noticeable as smartphone transactions increased.

There was feeling in 2019 that the growth of online sales may be curtailed by an online sales tax.  This was introduced in 2020 in the UK but, even when rates of taxation peaked at 10% in 2022, the effect on growth was negligible.

The continued move to online, but with perishable goods still generally instore, led to a change in the layout of stores with leisure uses gradually taking up more space. Every supermarket now has an instore fulfilment centre to enable ‘click and collect’ from a variety of vendors, not just for purchases from that store. The supermarket of 2020 is more of a community hub in 2030. 

Customers always shopped partly based on the experience of a pleasant environment, helpful staff and well laid out stores but, increasingly over the decade, this became more important.  Diverse considerations such as brand, convenience and particularly ethical engagement became an intrinsic part of a mission statement to appeal to customers. Ethical engagement led to the rise in rented clothes, refillable packs in stores, return of glass bottles etc.  Concerns about sustainability and climate change led to far less (and less bulky) packaging.

Delivery technologies have always been a key part of customers’ expectations.  In 2020, some retailers thought home delivery was important, but this gradually lessened as more and more customers became concerned about the social and environmental costs of diesel powered, refrigerated vans left running whilst deliveries were made. Deliveries have generally evolved from homes to instore collections. 

It has become a real concern over the decade that diesel engines in lorries and ferries have not been replaced by more environmentally sound power plants, but no technology has emerged to replace the diesel engine in terms of freight movement or indeed the jet engine in terms of time sensitive freight. We don’t travel as much by air for business or vacation, so the repurposing of passenger and freight aeroplanes to exclusively freight has been an increasing trend over the decade. The big surprise, given the environmental concerns of customers, is the continuing availability of produce with high food miles – strawberries in winter are still as popular as they were in 2020.

We had the big blip in technology advances in 2023 of course, when China, North Korea and Russia seriously compromised the web. Luckily for us all, GCHQ had quantum computing technology up its sleeve which saved the day.  The forced change in IT infrastructure as a result of quantum computing has made the revived Blackberry Corporation the most valuable company in the world due to its lead in manufacturing the new breed of smartphones.

What one piece of advice would you give to a CEO today?

Be flexible and think about what the customer wants

What three things would you advise a CEO to do in the next 3 years?

  1. Invest in systems, training and education
  2. Read everything factual you can lay your hands on
  3. Put yourself in the position of the customer

What is keeping CEOs up at night in 2030?

War with Imperial China

What's your one bold prediction for 2030?

EU and Euro will no longer exist

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

Optimistic