High Street Hopes Or Retail Regression? Welcome To The Alternative 2020 Predictions

OSS Masters | Andrew Busby
Andrew is considered one of the most high-profile figures in retail – regularly featuring in the top 20 lists of global retail influencers

OSS Masters offers the opportunity for retail business leaders to get a clear view on the future of retail and understand how best to position their businesses for success. This includes access to some of the industry’s key experts including Andrew Busby, a Retail Writer and Founder of Retail Reflections, a retail analyst consultancy, specialising in technology, psychology & the consumer.

Andrew joins the panel at OSS Masters 2020 alongside Chris Brook-Carter from Retail Week, Natalie Berg from NBK Retail and Helen Dickinson Chief Executive of BRC to debate the future retail landscape.

Here Andrew shares his alternate retail predictions for 2020:

Is 2020 set to be the year in which retail fights back? After all, those 2020 plans and visions have now got to be delivered.

And with the outcome of the election now known, Dominic Cummings safely being installed in number 10 with the promise of getting “Brexit done,” what could possibly go wrong?

So, just what does 2020 have in store? For some fun, read on to learn how the year will really unfold. Welcome to the alternative retail predictions.

Delivery Matters

Consumer demand and expectation never cease to amaze and intrigue and there’s probably no other area as acute as this as delivery. The days of 48 hour and next day delivery will soon be behind us, as we usher in the era of one hour fulfilment.

The implications of this are that demand management, inventory management and of course RFID (after all, no-one wants to do a Ted Baker) will become key areas for investment. All driven by AI and machine learning.

But what of those autonomous and drone deliveries? Got your PfCO qualifications yet? That’s Permission for Commercial Operations for the uninitiated. Expect drone training schools to be busy in 2020. Your local behemoth might well be recruiting.


Let’s face it, since when has the retail industry done anything other than a pretty poor job of attracting new talent? Sad to say that the majority of school-leavers and graduates still see retail as a fill-in job while they decide on a ‘proper’ career.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Retailers need to take the lead. Check-out skills might be less in demand, however, if you’re a data nerd or an analytics junkie, retail could well be the perfect place for you to exercise your skills.

Get on down and join the party, it’s not all about stacking shelves.


Mobile has already grabbed over 50% of the e-commerce market and will continue to accelerate as 5G comes on stream. And while there maybe those who counsel that we should all start wearing tinfoil hats to ward off the harmful free radicals, for the saner ones amongst us, 5G will revolutionize our shopping experience.

It’s already ‘mobile first’ and this will soon become ‘mobile only.’ After all, laptops are for luddites, right?

Business Rates

Sad to say, the first quarter will no doubt see yet more CVA’s and administrations, and with them, business rates will once again come under the spotlight. And with it, the calls for an online sales tax will again reverberate.

And once again, that’s not the answer. The only way to resolve the anomalies created by the current outdated system is the creation of a level playing field. I might have said that before?

However, I for one, am not holding my breath.

Personal Personalization

Ever been irritated by the emails, feel ambushed by the ads? You’re not alone. As retailers realize the power of (ethical) AI, thankfully, we will begin to see the rise of personal personalization.

This will be characterized by everything which current efforts are not. Relevant, in context, adding value. Rejoice! The age of knowing your customer is just around the corner.


Space, not so much the final frontier, more the perennial challenge. As we know, the majority of retailers have too much of it, and much of that, they are saddled with. So, we’ll begin to see more and more imaginative ways of repurposing that space.

Wellness, community activities, gyms, residential, office space—all have featured so far. Expect this to continue with an added dose of imagination. For example, before Boxpark, no-one was crying out for a collection of semi-permanent pop-ups with a twist of grunge in the heart of Shoreditch.

Quirky, relevant, artisan—it’s of the moment and brings people together in a way which the traditional high street has struggled to do so for some time. Expect to see more like this.

Different Thinking

Retail has traditionally eschewed learning from other sectors in favor of staring inwardly, relentlessly. Not only will we see key senior positions being taken by non-retailers, we’ll see signs of learning from other sectors beginning to appear.

I was watching a documentary on Caesars Palace the other evening. The hotel opened on the strip in Las Vegas in 1966. And yet even today, the majority of retailers could still learn much from the philosophy of founder Jay Sarno.

I look forward to more and more of this cross-over as retail wakes up to the fact that it has to adapt and change in the face of more and more non-traditional competition. The days of dodo retail are numbered.


We know the role of stores is changing and will continue to do so but rather than in delivering better and better experiences, the other trend which will continue to emerge will be stores as media.

Some are already doing this to great effect. Brand immersion through many different types of events, using the store as the focal point for the engagement.

Retail theatre. Now there’s a concept worth considering.

This article was originally published on Forbes online. 

Andrew is a retail writer, Forbes contributor and author of the book ‘Harry Was Right All Along’, Andrew is the founder of Retail Reflections and is one of the most high-profile figures in retail – regularly featuring in the top 20 lists of global retail influencers.

As a Forbes contributor and IBM Futurist, Andrew is constantly in demand for both writing and speaking and is regularly quoted in the media – on TV, radio and in the national press.

In a retail career spanning over 20 years, Andrew held senior positions at Kingfisher and Superdrug before going on to work with retailers such as Arcadia, Debenhams, John Lewis and Argos.

In addition to writing his own retail blog, Andrew is a member of the IORMA Advisory Board, a member of REAN, Advisory Board member at Retail Week, Founder of the Retail Advisory Board and is also editor at large for Retail Technology magazine.

For more information about OSS Masters

If you’d like to book places on the OSS Masters Programme please contact Terry Lees on 07595 928721 or terry.lees@brc.org.uk.