retail | June 23, 2011

Doug Stephens on How We Shop Now

Today, Doug Stephens, who runs Retail Prophet, stopped by The Lavin Agency's Toronto offices to talk about the history and future of retail through the lens of sociology, trends, demographics, and personal experience. The period from 1940 to 2007 in North America, Doug said, was an unprecedented era of megagrowth and mindless consumption, the likes of which retailers and consumers may never see again. Stephens then touched on online shopping--why it may not have lived up to its potential, but why a surging wave of aging baby boomers may yet make shopping-from-home a gargantuan industry in the years to come.

Stephens also talked about a promising trend that has emerged, post-economic meltdown: a return to craftsmanship, to quality, and a scaling down of consumption. That 60-odd year span starting in the '40s, he reiterated, was truly unique in human history. When asked about whether this preference for quality--and, most likely, expensive--goods meant a further stratification of consumer classes, Stephens said that, basically, the middle class has been abandoned. We now have consumers in the upper sphere, who invest in artisanal-type goods, and many clustered at a lower social-economic sphere, who buy in bulk, and frequent dollar stores. The middle class has never resembled more of a gaping chasm, totally gutted out, than it does today. Still, there's hope. We are entering an era of more responsible consumerism, of better products, and better, less wasteful, mechanisms to deliver them to market, whether that means smaller retail outlets (no more big boxes, which are now as datedly '90s as grunge music) or, finally, the arrival of robust online shopping.

In his talks, Stephens compounds a headspinning amount of original research and data to deliver customized keynotes to any group wanting to know more about retail--where it's been, and where it's going.

Read more about retail trend speaker Doug Stephens