From Adolescence To Puberty And So We Evolve? But, How Much Are We Losing.

Siviwe James - Your future Trend Analyst-Anthropologist

Fast fashion, online shopping and the technological advancements which have become part of ‘traditional’ shopping are headache topics for some of us. The idea of the fashion cycle having exhausted itself to a point of slim indicators of differentiation brings to my mind a concerning issue: is this the end of interpersonal aspects ones ‘retail therapy’ should provide?

The idea is to create a consumer who buys indispensable items on the idea of keeping up with some made up demand for Fashion superiority, when some fail at this.I am not denying that the whole shopping experience we have, lacks  the perks we are all seeing from international brands such as Adidas and Louis Vuitton ( DigitalBuzz,  Adidas window shopping).

I also do not deny that as a shop assistant myself, I find flaws in a system which seems as if it leaves little to no room for error ,but isn’t it only right for there not to be room for mistakes ,seeing as the world of business and money are involved.While walking through my favourite store, convenient and efficient service is something I crave, but still I need the ‘shopping experience’ to be a holistic part of my day.

Why are we completely removing ourselves from every bit of human interaction?

I walk into a store to find an item which will complete a look, gain advice from a strange but familiar face or even create a new persona to the ever evolving human. What will happen to these simple sensations if we are fully slammed with convenient technology which forces brands to mask their lack of understanding of the consumer? When people shop, they buy into a lifestyle. All I keep hearing in these reports is that retail aims to get the most out of this trend instead of it helping to serve us all.

How much can be replaced and made new when all I want to believe is that there is still the consumer who lives off human interaction.  It sounds and feels completely different when I place myself as the main object of such concerned words. How tailor-made, can tailored servicing get?  Is it unnecessary or just a natural part of human development and, to a lesser degree, out of plain convenience?

The problem facing all department and some boutique stores is that we aren’t at the level of fully servicing the consumer. While interviewing my Trend Analysis lecturer, Nicola Cooper, we further unpacked her own personal shopping experiences. Nicola walked into a store she likes, the music created an atmosphere she was familiar with, and hence created a sense of comfort for her while she browsed through the shelves. The store assistants were readily available when needed, and treated her as if she was the ‘Queen’. You see, this shopping spree had a story and people want to have a story for their purchases. Our sense of sentimentality with items has increased because of how hard we have to work to gain all that we have.

The Online shopper is a confident creature. The online shopper doesn’t need you to sell the brand to it because they know which brands are transparent for their lifestyles. The product offering and delivery of goods to customer, make painting your nails look like hard work. While sitting behind your desk or on your couch choosing your winter wardrobe, I’m sure the idea of standing in a small cubical, after standing in a long queue, just seems so ridiculous.

The standard South African consumer is ready to accept what is being predicted to them, they are more timid and cautious of how their products are being offered to them. What I seem to understand when speaking to an online shopper is that they are people who have felt cheated by the traditional retail format and have removed themselves from the laborious and monotonous act of dealing with a rude face and bad attitude.

The Mis-education of Retail from Employer to Employee, as the sales assistant this just amplifies the need for the retail industry to start choosing their staff better. It amplifies the need for retail to improve their staff requirements and store protocol in order to get the best out of employees. If your employee doesn’t understand and love the business as you do, how can you depend on them to be a proud representative of what you are trying to accomplish.

When online stores have return policies which are as convenient as the shopping experience itself, I keep wondering why we haven’t just ironed out the basic kinks in traditional retailing instead of overselling this change of the ‘wheel’. Traditional retail has forgotten a basic concept which Dion Chang reminded me off, “If you can’t sell to a changing environment you will fail with today’s consumer.” Those are words we all need to practise in retail.

This swift move for a faster form of shopping moves to change the job description of the shop assistant from seller to consultant and disaster management officer. This was part of Mr Chang’s closing words and while sitting there I wanted to swim against this tide to bring people into stores while sharing this ever evolving network with cyber space.

In retrospect, the sales assistant should have been all that and more in the first place. It’s your hard earned money you’re spending here. Service with a smile should be the least of your problems. This was my closing thought to this mind opening talk by Dion Chang.

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