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Public Engagement in Experiential Futures



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Economic

As real estate prices and studio spaces become more expensive and harder to find in the city, artists may begin migrating out into the suburbs. This might pose as an opportunity to help boost the renewal of neighbourhoods as artists have had a history of being catalysts to the renewal of urban cores for many cities. There is evidence collected that urban renewal through the arts encourages cultural tourism and subsequent economic growth. Revitalization through the arts and culture has also been able to give new meaning to decaying and low-profit urban infrastructure.

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Partnership with institutions or government (i.e. libraries, recreation facilities, community centres, etc.) as a means of attracting reliable and long term anchor tenants that drive visitation to other retailers, or directly serve the surrounding community. Examples include suburban malls integrating civic services like a public library, a municipal services, and immigration services.

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Omni-channel retailing is on the rise: the use of a variety of elements to shape a customer’s shopping experience, including bricks and mortar stores, online shopping, mobile apps and telephone sales.

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Consumer surveys are showing a general trend towards consumers placing more importance on experiences than possessions, which is particularly evident amongst the millennial demographic. In particular, social media presence and a “fear of missing out” are drivers for millennials’ preference towards experiential purchases over material possessions. This trend has caused retailers such as Macy’s to adopt experience-based models to drive consumer purchases, such as incorporating mini-concerts, yoga classes, and cafes into the retail environment. Psychology studies reinforce this trend to show that purchasing experiences tend to be more rewarding, and that there is a correlation with increased happiness.

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Increased global connectedness is generating opposition in the form of localisation, as people try to assert their own identity. Forced to think about how to run global businesses that are also localised, global retailers (e.g. Uniqlo, Lululemon and Nike) are activating communities through local engagement strategies like the creation of local hubs and cultural programming, “superhero” ambassadors, and neighbourhood run clubs. These strategies shift from traditional merchandise standardization to embracing decentralized leadership, and recognizing the need to be good at understanding other cultures, while still being mindful of protecting brand equity and economies of scale.

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Retail workers are at risk of losing their jobs to robots and other automation technology. Automation services that are disrupting retail employment can range from tablets where customers can check out without the help of a cashier to more complicated technologies that can interact with customers in stores and help them find the items they need.

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Improvements to the customer experience, increased retail options, and faster shipping has made online shopping more appealing. Customers are now buying more things from the comfort of their homes than in person at brick and mortar stores. Grocery shopping may be the last holdout. At the moment, the majority of people still want to push a cart down the aisle, choosing items for their family, but that is changing as well.

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Declining sales at large big box stores have forced some to close locations leaving large unutilized spaces in many shopping malls. With these big box stores once acting as anchor stores not only for customers but for other smaller stores as well now gone, the economic ecosystem of malls have become that much more fragile.

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Several retail bankruptcies in 2017 show the signs of a retail meltdown taking place. Retail giants like Macy’s, Sears and J.C Penny in the US have shut down stores, with Canada starting to experience some of those ripple effects. This retail meltdown has been attributed to the rise of online retail powerhouses like Amazon, a behavioural shift towards more experiential retail, and an overall oversupply of malls failing to meet actual customer demand.

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Not only do recent immigrants represent a new and consistently growing consumer base, they are also arriving in better financial positions than previous generations, reflecting the current skew in Canada’s immigration policy toward admitting skilled professionals. Visible minority ethnic groups far outpaced the average non-visible-minority resident in consumer spending growth from 2008 to 2013.

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