The World Is Being Rebuilt from the Ground upMatthias Horx, trend and future researcher, and retail expert Marcus Wild, Chairman of the SES Supervisory Board, talk about the future, new chances for retailers, paradoxes, and the redefinition of success.

In an interview during the coronavirus lockdown, you once said that “after the corona pandemic, coffee will taste different”. Why is that so? When will we go back to normal?

Matthias Horx ››› Never. The world as we know it is dissolving. This is one of those historic moments that give our future a different direction. A new world is forming, and, in the worst case, things will stay as they are. People, societies, and cultures are subject to constant changes, which is in line with the principle of evolution. At times of the coronavirus, our economy in particular requires a new legitimacy. The retail trade will also undergo a future process. The “old normal” was a very hectic time. We were addicted to an ever-increasing level of utilization, upgrades, entertainment, and “Likes”, but at the same time, we felt disorientated. The coronavirus crisis brought an unexpected silence. Let’s face it: do we really want to go back to the “old normal”? Our first impulse might be to return back to the lives that we are used to. Very quickly. Very urgently. Otherwise, everything will break down. But is that really true?

Undisputedly, the crisis has caused a lot of suffering, insecurity and financial distress. Its impact cannot be downplayed, and we are not out of the woods yet. At the same time, it has provided us with a glimpse of “the other side”. It creates a clearer, more transparent future. The world was “going under”, and yet, surprisingly, some things worked even better than they had before. The “new normal” might involve the use of a standard growth model as the only economic model for the future, as well as a prosperity index that also measures the qualitative dimensions of prosperity – environment, health, connectedness, and quality of life.

Megatrends will remain the most important drivers of change, and form the basis of retail trend developments. They bring about revolutionary changes via their enormous mid- to long-term impact on all aspects of the economy and society as a whole. The world post, or rather mid-coronavirus, has emerged from the disruption of the connectivity megatrend. However, the disruption of globalization across the entire globe does not cancel our connections, but brings about their restructuring.

Local production and booming online business – are those not contradictory to one another? Where can we see the change?

Matthias Horx ››› ”Glocal“ is key here. The boom that delivery boxes of organic goods are enjoying proves that regional products and online retail are not contradictory. The things that connect such paradoxes to a greater extent, such as the “phygital” phenomenon, are viable for the future. While the coronavirus has brought humanity closer together, we have all had to maintain our distance. One thing, however, has not changed: People enjoy meeting each other, but they also love the advantages offered by modern technology. What a huge opportunity for the retail industry! Perhaps the “new world” will also usher in an era of greater deceleration, and with it the elimination of certain things, habits, and dependencies. That does not mean that post-corona consumption will manifest itself by way of radical minimalism – but rather in the realization that an enjoyable, fulfilled life is not dependent on the number of consumer goods one owns or uses. Consumption for the sake of consumption will, therefore, lose momentum. Now, the issue is rather one that relates to conscious consumption. A boom in local business and the renaissance of crafts. Consumers have begun to value what is genuine and authentic, as well as quality, and their focus has shifted towards necessities. We’re looking at a post-growth era, featuring a new awareness of values. The constant pressure on prices is no longer required, nor does anyone desire it. Upcycling, cradle-to-cradle design, and a strategic commitment to the circular economy are the order of the day. The future will be about creating meaning rather than maximizing profits. Social responsibility is on the rise, and members of all generations desire to improve the world. People are beginning to recognize the value of mutual contribution – cooperation instead of competition. Consumers benefit from phenomena such as shared spaces and co-retailing. The retail business functions like an eco-system that can only survive in communion with the environment. This form of connectivity creates ideas, solutions, and enclaves of production cooperation. Innovation goes on.

What advice can you offer our retail partners on their journeys “into the new world”?

Matthias Horx ››› Transformation is key. Mobilize your powers to transform! Be adventurous! The tool to achieve this is “RE-Gnosis”, a mental technique under which we look back at our present time from a point of time in the future. Using this technique, we reconstruct the link that connects us to the future. Take a look at yourself during pre-lockdown times. Have you changed? Then, take a look ahead, into a world that strikes a different note. Can you see yourself in this world? Re-gnosis allows for a perspective of coping and of change.

Our future begins in the mind. Reset. Rethink. Be determined. Communicate with clarity and demonstrate your brand’s competence to find solutions. Living through times of crises means waking up to a better world in which all of us accept our responsibility for tomorrow. Excited about what lies ahead, curious, forward-looking. We make plans and have visions that let us gear our actions towards the future. Re-gnosis means understanding that we are part of the future. WE are the change that we are hoping for in the world. If YOU reinvent yourself, so will the world. You will see that the future has already arrived. Similarly to love, it is a choice. This is how change comes about, and not in any other shape or form. Change yourself and change the world.

The future begins inside of us. WE are the change that we are hoping for in the world.

Matthias Horx
Matthias Horx, trend and future researcher, publicist, and visionary

What conclusions have you drawn as a result of the coronavirus crisis?

Marcus Wild ››› Our centers primarily consist of organically grown local retail locations. Those very roots of our company have served as our backbone, even throughout the crisis. With regard to our competitors, our advantage in that area has also increased. However, this year’s figures will be nothing like the previous year’s. Our efforts and successful achievements need to be reassessed. We always operate in a partnership-oriented manner, also when times are rough. Our personal relationships with our retailers, as well as our gastronomy and service providers, are of particular importance to us. Having said that, we now have a clearer picture of which of our concepts are crisis-proof. The wheat is being separated from the chaff.

How will the shop mix change in the medium term?

Marcus Wild ››› The coronavirus pandemic is representative of a true disruption. The accelerated evolution of retail is a direct result of it. The current trend is towards fewer traditional textile concepts, fewer medium-sized companies, more food & near-food products, more regional producers, more home & garden, more sports, more clearly defined concepts, and more click & collect.

What does “the new, post-corona world” entail for SES? What are the greatest opportunities for development?

Marcus Wild ››› Change always creates huge opportunities for business people and entrepreneurs. In competitive environments, faster and more consistent adaptation is often critical. The post-corona world will offer entrepreneurs enormous potential to develop new business models and ideas. That creative potential began to unfold as soon as the lockdown was triggered. Some of our gastronomy providers, for example, have succeeded in establishing new business areas that offer excellent pick-up services. Another example can be seen in the new Hervis model market at EUROPARK Salzburg, where you can sense the company’s determination and enthusiasm to become more relevant to the market. Overall, the market leadership of SPAR/INTERSPAR in Austria, which was established during the first four months of the year, has clearly strengthened our centers. A shopping center is not just a shell that houses numerous retail companies under one roof. It is also an “enabler” and, as such, it must actively select retailers and concepts, while being demanding and supportive of them. Furthermore, a center must be regionally anchored, not exchangeable, and integrated into the community. All of these things are well executed throughout the entire SPAR Group. We are certain to emerge from the coronavirus crisis even stronger than before.

Where will SES be in five years?

Marcus Wild ››› Our focus on regional identity and authenticity will be of greater intensity in the future. Mixed-use spaces have become increasingly important. The opening of our new district center ALEJA in Ljubljana gives an indication of a new beginning in the wake of the lockdown. It also captures the spirit of the times. Five years from now, shopping places will have to be regarded even more strongly as meeting places that combine shopping, leisure activities, residential areas, commercial buildings, and other uses.

The coronavirus pandemic represents a true disruption. The accelerated evolution of retail is a direct result of it.

Marcus Wild
Chairman SES Supervisory Board

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