So, how does this experience relate or inform our practice other than to reinforce that we should get out more often? I believe that it puts in bold relief our industry's current obsession in generalization: "Millennials want....[insert groan]" Who among us doesn't like to be comfortable? Who doesn't like to be served with a smile? Who doesn't like to feel like they are not being sold anything, but rather are choosing to buy something? In a recent conversation with Lew Horne, the President of CBRE Greater Los Angeles and Orange County, the topic of service and hospitality in the commercial office world led us back to a long-running discussion of Rick Caruso's cunning manipulation of the concierge experience to a retail product. Not too long ago the retail industry had a belief that by providing too many places for customer to sit, the developer was discouraging people from buying. The Grove flipped that proposition on its head and continues to be a case study for treating customers like guests.
According to the US Census Bureau, online sales currently account for just under 10% of all retail activity in the United States. That number will certainly continue to grow, but we believe that the erosion of the commodity goods market to online sources will ultimately eliminate several broad categories of goods and services. That should not be a frightening prospect, unless you are solely invested in power centers and large format retail. Instead of trepidation, developers and retailers should embrace the idea that customers (of all generations) would prefer to sit in a comfy chair, be served a coffee or cocktail and decide themselves when they feel like make purchases for commodity goods. Instead of hunched over a home computer, customers can shop while consuming experiences that are provided by a brand or property owner. Banks have started experimenting with replacing the roped-off lines and teller booths with a customer lounge where the banker comes to you. The evolution of retail is an exciting opportunity for capital-D Design. As architects and designers we are trained in scale, order and balance, so an admiration for places like the Chicago Athletics Association can reverberate throughout our practice and the expertise we bring to our clients.