- Business and Employment
The Future of Block Stores, Malls & $15/hr Minimum Wage
From My Perspective: A View of our Future John Owens
Have you ever just let your mind wander to that point where you ask yourself “What will the future look like?” If you have then you know your mind has a tendency to move all over the spectrum as you think about different aspects of what we had yesterday, what we have today, and what could all of this look like tomorrow?
The answers arguably are guesses at best and maybe fall into the classification of educated guesses sometimes and maybe are even a gift. Where and how these “visions” of the future reveal themselves is a mystery itself. Although I do not see myself as a prognosticator, by any means, I thoroughly enjoy contemplating what the future may bring. Having said that, I thought I would share some thoughts on the future from my point of view.
Block Stores will disappear..What then?
- I believe most of the block stores, as we know them (Walmart, Target, Best Buy) will move out of their brick and mortar environment into the world of on line shopping. Their current buildings will be either vacated or renovated to become distribution centers in support of their online sales. We see some of this happening already with Walmart offering free shipping to local store for items purchased on line. Look at the speed with which Amazon.com can deliver merchandise to your doorstep. Grocery delivery will be huge, although tried in the past, the time is better now for the service because there are more computer savvy people on line. These people are also more comfortable with buying online. The price competition and the convenience of online shopping between the online store and the brick and mortar is driving retailers to a new business model. Here is an excerpt from an article in Forbes by
J.J. Colao, Forbes Contributor
“Five Trends Driving Traditional Retail Towards Extinction”
The smart brick-and-mortar players recognize the inevitable rise of online shopping and are adapting to the new realities. Take Macy’s: The 154-year-old retail chain saw online sales rise 40% in 2011 while same-store sales grew just 5.3%. The company is transforming nearly 300 of its stores into distribution centers to speed up shipping for online consumers. Expected to do more than $2 billion in online sales this year, they’re even toying around with in-store online kiosks to help customers scan and compare prices.
Nordstrom, a whippersnapper compared to Macy’s at 111 years old, is taking an even more aggressive approach. With free shipping and free returns in its online store, the company has notched three straight quarters of 35% gains in online sales. Nordstrom is integrating its online and in-store strategies by introducing mobile point-of-sale systems–modified iPod touches–that eliminate lines while helping sales clerks sell customers out-of-stock items. According to Barron’s, the company plans to invest $1 billion (one third of its capital expenditures) into online efforts over the next five years”
As you can see the future is bright for most businesses that begin to make this change. For those companies that cannot make the change, I see failure in their future as the bullet train is unstoppable as it is on the tracks and moving forward.
Malls after businesses move to Cyberspace
Looking at the future of Malls and Strip Centers
- Let’s turn to Malls and strip centers. What could the future hold for them? With less retail operations looking for retail space, because of the move to online stores, the Mall and Strip Centers will have to rebrand themselves. So, what do you think should go inside the skeletal remains of your local shopping Mall? How about designing a community of apartments and support services and shops? Would make sense to repurpose these monoliths. They could also become meeting centers like the town center s of yesteryear. They could feature inside landscaping, band shell, entertainment area walkways and parks built inside so they could be enjoyed by all in any weather. I think, designed properly, they could become their own community within the current larger community (City, Town) This concept would probably work well for recently upgraded, renovated downtown areas of Anytown, USA. Some of the Malls could be used for low income housing or homeless shelters. One thing for sure, change is coming. Let me give you this thought to ponder. What if Walmart decided to move strictly online and close virtually all of its stores? Where would that leave communities where the retail giant moved in and forced the local business out because the local could not compete? I would initially leave a huge hole in the community job market, economic impact and lack of local resources for everything from clothing to groceries. Some might say that new entrepreneurs would fill in the holes left with the exit of Walmart. In a world we grew up with I would tend to agree with that thought but given the direction into the online world of sales you might not see these opportunist wanting to invest in a startup brick and mortar business in one town when they can fire up and online company that sells & ships to the world. Change is inevitable. Will you be ready? Which direction would you take?
McDonald's adds 7,000 Touch Screens
Panera Bread putting in self serving kiosks along with Chilis & Applebee's
$15/hr Really? Where is that headed?
- There has been a lot of discussion lately about raising the minimum wage to $15/hr., especially in the fast food business.
“McDonald's orders 7,000 touchscreen kiosks to replace cashiers
By Michael Collado Neowin LLC @michaelcollado · May 18, 2011 ·
McDonald's recently added 64,000 people to its payroll in the United States, but job prospects in Europe for those so inclined to work in the fast food industry are looking pretty grim right about now. That's because the fast food giant is poised to add touchscreen kiosks in more than 7,000 of its restaurants in Europe in effort to replace actual, human cashiers.
McDonald's Europe President Easterbrook told the Financial Times (subscription required), via The Sydney Morning Herald, that the touchscreen kiosks should help speed up customer transactions up to three or four seconds. The European eateries currently serve about 2 million people per day; McDonald's hopes it will get even more people to flock in through their doors.
Electronic menus that replace physical beings is nothing new. Microsoft has been pushing its touchscreen computer, the Surface, which has mostly been a big hit at Vegas casinos, hotels, and clubs — where users can order from the table, play around with the image onscreen, and... "flirt" with people at other tables. For the last couple of years, there have been touchscreen kiosks stationed at at least seven McDonald's restaurants in Australia. McDonald's says they have no interest in replacing cashiers with kiosks in Australia, however, or anywhere else for that matter.
Besides monetary incentive, and not to mention that the kiosks will also be getting rid of cash transactions since they only accept credit or debit cards, the kiosks are also a way to gather statistical information about people's eating habits, said Easterbrook. The company could potentially track every last thing you order (or perhaps offer you a free Big Mac with every ten that you purchase?).
"Ordering food has not changed for 30 or 40 years," Easterbrook said, reasoning the addition of touchscreen kiosks.
Details regarding the cost of the technology or when it will be rolled out were not disclosed.”
Image credit: Flickr user melpenguin
Here’s an article from CNN by James O'Toole @jtotoole
“As protesters across the country call for the fast-food chains to raise their wages, a number of companies have begun experimenting with new technology that could significantly reduce the number of restaurant workers in the years to come.
Restaurant industry backers warn that a sharp rise in wages would be counterproductive, increasing the appeal of automation and putting more workers at risk of job loss.
"Faced with a $15 wage mandate, restaurants have to reduce the cost of service," blared an ad in The Wall Street Journal last year from the Employment Policies Institute, which supports corporate interests. "That means fewer entry-level jobs and more automated alternatives -- even in the kitchen."
Other industry observers aren't so definitive, noting that it takes time to introduce new technology and that human interaction has always been a major component of the hospitality business. What's clear at least is that software and machines will play an increased role in our dining experiences going forward.
It slices, it dices, it's a noodle robot!
Panera Bread (PNRA) is the latest chain to introduce automated service, announcing in April that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks as well as a mobile ordering option to all its locations within the next three years. The news follows moves from Chili's and Applebee's to place tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff at all.
Panera, which spent $42 million developing its new system, claims it isn't planning any job cuts as a result of the technology, but some analysts see this kind of shift as unavoidable for the industry.
Related: 110 arrested outside McDonald's headquarters
In a widely cited paper released last year, University of Oxford researchers estimated that there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.
With artificial-intelligence technology like IBM's (IBM) Watson platform making strides in advanced reasoning and language understanding, it's not hard to see how robots could be designed to provide more sophisticated interactions with restaurant customers than kiosks can manage.
Delivery drivers could be replaced en masse by self-driving cars, which are likely to hit the market within a decade or two, or even drones. In food preparation, there are start-ups offering robots for bartending and gourmet hamburger preparation. A food processing company in Spain now uses robots to inspect heads of lettuce on a conveyor belt, throwing out those that don't meet company standards, the Oxford researchers report.
Darren Tristano, a food industry expert with the research firm Technomic, said digital technology will "slowly, over time, create efficiency and labor savings" for restaurants. He guessed that work forces would only drop as a result by 5% or 10% at a maximum in the decades to come, however, given the expectations that customers have for the dining experience.
"If you look at the thousands of years that consumers have been served alcohol and food by people, it's hard to imagine that things will change that quickly," he said.
CNNMoney (New York) First published May 22, 2014: 10:59 AM ET”
The future of Fast Food is going the way of a lot of industrial jobs from the last 50 years. Robotics and technology are replacing humans in those areas that have traditionally been reserved for the less educated, older citizen and/or student, the part time mom, dad needing to add income to their household. All of this will create new opportunities and require more education than in previous generations. Are we ready as a country to provide the educational resources to create this new workforce?
Future of Product Placement, Marketing & Advertising with the marriage of Computers & TV
- As I look at the completion of TV and computer technology merging into one complete system, I wonder how this could change the marketing/advertising model forever. What if, you could pick up your mouse and click on any item that you found interesting in a movie or TV show you are currently watching and by clicking on that car, sofa, rug, dress, entertainment center, condiment or soft drink sitting on the table and have all the information about that product pop up. It would tell you what it is, different colors and sizes available, prices and ask if you would like to purchase now.
If this was available it would change the way companies advertise and market, especially product placement, on TV to the consumer. It will be a breakthrough with enormous economic impact. Gone would be those annoying TV ads and interruptions in your “show” or movie. It will be a game changer.
The future is just that, tomorrow. We can only guess and dream of what it will bring. I am an optimist at heart and firmly believe that change is constant and, if we see it as opportunity and embrace that unsettling feeling of facing something new in our lives, can make our lives better, in most cases.
Obviously there is much more we could discuss about what the future could bring. We will be addressing that in another “From My Perspective” because it fascinates me.
“The Best is Yet to Come”