Selfridges explores: the future of retail

Pull on your space boots and readjust your tin foil hat, as we ask the experts what shopping will be like in the not-so-distant future. Activating Flux Capacitor…

Carlings

Environmentally clean eating 

While in 2019 we’re keen to shop sustainably-sourced food, this will ramp up over the next decade. A merging of back-to-basics farming and advanced digital technology – like GPS-controlled tractors to better target and improve crops, or LED lights tailored to each plant for 24/7 growth – will create a planet-friendly and health-conscious approach to the food market, all with much less waste.

The Vegan Society has reported that we’re more likely to be vegan for ethical reasons right now than ever before (enter stage left: our new, vegan Selfridges Selection range). Innovative – and far more sustainable – alternatives to animal agriculture will continue to transform the way we eat, especially when it comes to protein: according to the recent Future of Food report by Sainsbury’s, we should be able to grow our very own cultured meat at home in the next 50 years. A substitute to farmed protein that’s as easy as picking up a ready meal, you say? Sounds good to us.

Environmentally clean eating 

While in 2019 we’re keen to shop sustainably sourced food, this will ramp up over the next decade. A merging of back-to-basics farming and advanced digital technology – like GPS-controlled tractors to better target and improve crops, or LED lights tailored to each plant for 24/7 growth – will create a planet-friendly and health-conscious approach to the food market, all with much less waste.

The Vegan Society has reported that we’re more likely to be vegan for ethical reasons right now than ever before (enter stage left: our new, vegan Selfridges Selection range). Innovative – and far more sustainable – alternatives to animal agriculture will continue to transform the way we eat, especially when it comes to protein: according to the recent Future of Food report by Sainsbury’s, we should be able to grow our very own cultured meat at home in the next 50 years. A substitute to farmed protein that’s as easy as picking up a ready meal, you say? Sounds good to us.

@provenanceHQ

Supply and demand transparency

“Frankly, if there is to be any future for retail, the industry had better take radical action to address its environmental impact,” says Alex McIntosh, Creative Director of consultancy and creative collective Create Sustain. So, what could radical action look like?

The founder of digital platform Provenance, Jessi Baker, has a pretty good idea. Jessi researched into how companies could use Blockchain technology – a public, decentralised database, as used by crypto-currency Bitcoin – to create a completely transparent supply chain business model. “We live in the age of information, and yet we as shoppers continue to be blind to the journeys and impact behind the products we buy,” she says. “We are the reason these complex global chains exist – our choices in the market power everything.”

@antoniudisco for Selfridges


Long-term accountability is a tough challenge that businesses must rise up to meet.

Jessi Baker, Provenance

The hope in the not-so-distant future is to be able to see a product’s journey to its customer, from start to finish: the ingredients used and where they were sourced from, the producers involved, and how it is transported. Here at Selfridges, we ask all our brand partners to sign up to Sedex, a platform helping provide supply-chain transparency – but might technologies like Provenance take this one step further?

As part of our mission to buy better and inspire change, we’re already 100% powered by green electricity in our stores and offices, and in 2014, we were the first department store in the UK to achieve The Carbon Trust Triple Standard. But we’re just getting started – by 2020, we’re aiming to reduce our carbon emission by 15%, reduce our water usage by 12% and reduce total waste by 70%. (Read more about our commitments, here.)

“Long-term accountability is a tough challenge that businesses must rise up to meet,” says Jessi. “As Extinction Rebellion recently said: ‘You have an extraordinary moment to be on the right side of history. That’s not something that can get postponed… It needs action right now.’”

Carlings

Fashion forecast: Bright New Things

When it comes to clothes, the future points to how digital technology can help ease the environmental impact the industry creates. Case in point: fashion label Carlings, which, in its quest to make fast fashion a relic of the past, questions whether clothing needs to physically exist, now that Instagram is the main outlet for showcasing new looks. 

Alongside design agency Virtue Nordic, the brand created a purely digital clothing line with zero ecological impact. When customers order an item from the collection (a streetwear-inspired line-up of puffer jackets, molten-metallic sweaters and tracksuits), a ‘digital tailor’ fits the design to the customers’ image, which they can then post all over their social channels. “We added the step of 3D rendering customers’ bodies, making it possible for them to flex the outfits on social media – rendered in a perfect lighting environment to match the target image,” says Virtue Nordic Creative Dimitri de Paiva.


“AI and the internet will have a significant impact on the way retail operates… allowing clothing to be responsive to climate, mood and situation.”

Alex McIntosh, Create Sustain

Meanwhile, fashion month, a long-feted timetable of buzzing catwalk shows across four capital cities, might soon be a thing of the past. Stockholm Fashion Council recently announced that they were cancelling their shows in order to focus on how they can support their homegrown designers’ latest work and trends in the most sustainable way possible. Could this ripple across the world in favour of a purely digital fashion showcase, via 360º recordings and even VR headsets (as seen at Central St Martins graduate Gerrit Jacob’s recent show)?

Back IRL, brands like Reformation and HappyxNature (both available at Selfridges, hint hint) are pointing to a future where sustainable production is a no-brainer and part and parcel of every business model. At Selfridges, we’re doing our bit with products (50% by 2022) that are better for people and the planet; phasing out the sale of exotic skins by 2020, and through supporting exciting new names in sustainability each season with our Bright New Things campaign.

Aside from digital-only collections and a sustainable-first ethos, we will also see our clothes (and the brands that create them) get much, much smarter. “I think a combination of AI and the internet will have a significant impact on the way retail operates,” says Alex. “Materials will become increasingly smart and connected, allowing clothing to be responsive to climate, mood and situation.” So, looking for some temperature-controlled space boots? We’ve heard Selfridges will have a great selection, just make sure you pop by in 100 years…