096: The Future Of The Store Of The Future

24 Aug 2020 | Guest Interviews, Podcast

096: The Future Of The Store Of The Future with Chris Walton - The Retail Transformation Show with Oliver Banks

Publish Date

24 August 2020

Your Host

Oliver Banks


The store of the future is often a part of a retailer’s innovation strategy. But with the current uncertainty and with the fast pace of innovation, is it still relevant to have a store of the future? And how should it be set up to be successful? Store of the future expert, Chris Walton, joins to discuss what the future holds with host, Oliver Banks.

Listen to this episode to discover:

  • What is the store of the future and how should it be used in an innovation strategy?
  • If it is still relevant in these uncertain and fast moving times?
  • Good examples of store of the future from other retailers?



Introducing Chris Walton

Chris WaltonChris Walton is a leading expert and influencer in omnichannel retailing, bringing 20 years of experience across nearly every functional area in the industry. At present, he is the CEO and Founder of Omni Talk, one of the fastest growing blogs and podcasts in retail, and also of Third Haus, a retail technology lab in Minneapolis in the US. So, Chris regularly finds himself talking and advising about innovation and store of the future.

Also, Chris is a speaker, a senior contributor for Forbes, and sits on the Advisory Board for Delivery Solutions and Xenia Retail.

Previously, he was at Target, as Vice President of the Store of the Future. Plus, he held other roles, including Vice President of Merchandising for Home Furnishings on Target.com. He’s also worked at Gap, Inc.

Get in touch with Chris:

Read articles at OmniTalk.blog.

Connect on LinkedIn

Follow on Twitter (@OmniTalk).

The three types of store of the future

In the podcast episode, Chris Walton laid a framework of 3 types of store of the future.

1. Incremental. This is taking the existing operating model or proposition and developing it a little further to optimise. Changed could come to more widescale deployment as soon as they have been tested – perhaps 6 months to a year.

2. New business model. In this type of store of the future, you’re looking at a completely new business model and proposition. As these changes are much bigger, they’re slower to come to fruition – taking over a year.

3. The “concept car”. The final type of store of the future is the true concept work. Chris likens this to having a concept car – lots of new ideas and radical thinking. The aim is to learn and understand with recognition that not everything will work. In fact, changes might never see the light of day beyond this initial experiment. Or they may develop into other experiments or a different store of the future.

Store of the future examples (as discussed in the podcast)

There were several store of the future examples shared by Chris in the episode. Here is more on each if you’re not familiar with them.

Warby Parker – challenging the status quo

When Warby Parker moved from pure-play ecommerce retailers into physical stores, it surprised people. But they weren’t creating the usual glasses store. They decided to reimagine what it could be.

This isn’t new news – it’s 7 years old in fact – but this video still shows the thinking and strategy that went into that first store. And actually – if we’re being honest – the market hasn’t moved on all that far and this is still an innovative and future-fit store.

“When we started on this store – completely from scratch – it wasn’t going into optical shops and seeing what the best practices were, because frankly we thought that that experience was stale and ineffective” Neil Blumenthal, Co-CEO, Warby Parker

Restoration Hardware – creating an unbelievable expression of the brand

Restoration Hardware have transformed themselves and are heavily into showroom style retail “stores” now. In this video, hear from CEO and Chairman, Gary Friedman.

“RH New York is not only going to be seen as an unbelievable expression of our brand today, but will continue to be an unbelievable expression of our brand for years to come” Gary Friedman

Amazon Go – the master experimenters

Of all of the retailers, Amazon is well known for R&D. With huge investments and generating big buzz, it won’t surprise you that Amazon are continually setting up new store of the future.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology that powers their “Go” convenience store format is well publicised. However, they’ve continued with their test and learn approach. Initially, it was 3,000 sqft but now it’s up to 10,000 sqft. In the beginning, it was for Amazon employees only – now, they have a number of customer-facing stores and are expanding internationally under their own brand as well as through a licensing model.

Having used their store of the future to test and ultimately support the scaling up of the concept, Amazon are moving on. Their next store of the future is set to feature their DashCart for automatically scanning shopping without loads of cameras. Plus, they are rumoured to be including a micro-robotic fulfilment centre for home delivery shopping. Below is the leaked floorplan that allegedly shows this, as reported on Medium.

Floorplan reportedly showing a micro fulfilment centre

Amazon have also experimented outside of the grocery space with Amazon Books and then Amazon 4-Star (see below).

Nordstrom Local – reimagining a store with services, not products

As department store model faces increasing challenges, Nordstrom decided to set up a store of the future. In this video, see how Nordstrom have used their store of the future to move away from their classic 140,000 sqft store to a relatively tiny 3,000 sqft store. Plus, they are exploring how a new business model could be imagined.

This video was from 2018 and they are now expanding to more sites.

Sam’s Club Now – testing the latest fun and frictionless innovations

In Dallas, Texas, Walmart owned Sam’s Club are trialling new customer shopping technology as part of their store of the future.

“More lab than club, it’s where the latest innovations and shopping technology are being tested and implmented to make buying coffee and anything else fun and frictionless.” Sam’s Club Now

In summary

There are many types of store of the future. In this podcast episode of the Retail Transformation Show, Chris Walton explained that you must decide what your store of the future is for. Are you looking to test incremental innovations on top of your existing ways of working? Are you looking to test new business models? Or are you really experimenting – creating the radical concept store of the future?

I’d love to hear from you – what are your favourite store of the future examples?

Email me at oliver.banks@obandco.uk or connect on LinkedIn or Twitter (@ollie_banks). Looking forward to hearing from you.


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