The High Street gets closer every day: up to and inside our front doors in fact (courtesy of online shopping), and with major outlets like BHS and Debenhams disappearing in the teeth of Amazon’s ruthless onslaught, pop up and corner shops are likely to play a much bigger part in the future of retail. Last week, the former CEO of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, announced a “significant investment” in Snappy Group (www.meetsnappy.com) because, as he snappily said, “it allows a corner shop to be as close to omnichannel as Tesco or Marks & Spencer’s are today”…and he couldn’t be more right. In today’s fast evolving markets, retailers need to be quicker on their feet, more responsive to consumer need and capable of switching to smaller, nimbler store formats. So say hello to the brave new world of the Modular High Street…
Division of Production
Of course almost everything these days is capable of commoditisation, breaking products down into their smallest components, or Modules, and manufacturing them at scale: after all that’s exactly that’s how your iPhone is put together: individual elements are manufactured in their millions at low cost centres (yes, we’re talking about China), before final assembly and shipment across the world. And scaling up the production process by focusing down, identifying the smallest repeatable component, and then repeating it at scale, means radically reduced costs, greater production efficiencies and way…way higher production numbers. It’s our modern day legacy from Adam Smith’s Division of Labour: but this is Division of Production, and those individual repeatable components, those Modules, are currently changing our everyday world.
Modular production solutions are now a commonplace part of commerce in everything from buildings to restaurant menus…cars and cakes, to cabbage farming: and the list isn’t just virtually endless…it is endless.
And it includes the brave new world of Retail.
The Modular High Street: A Non-Linear Journey
In industry jargon, shoppers have recently moved sharply from a linear (predictable) “journey” to a much more randomised behaviour pattern: they prefer fewer staff interactions (goodbye Department Stores), or even none at all (hello self service checkouts and on-line shopping). Lockdown restrictions imposed in the wake of the COVID pandemic might have accelerated that trend, but they certainly didn’t cause it. Shoppers now want to be in charge: they want to decide where and what they buy, and they want to decide how it’s delivered as well: which is precisely why we’ve seen a shift towards more localised consumption preferences: its all part of an evolving pattern of ever more radical, ever more global localisation.
So where do Modular Technologies come into all that?
Well, in response to this accelerating global, trend retailers (including Justin King) are currently looking to rapidly upgrade store infrastructure to create units better suited to in-store ordering on the High Street, more flexible formats and new pop up outlets: providing added potential to test consumer engagement levels by way of a temporary floor plate. Modular units also allow retailers to reuse materials (they’re sustainable); and unlike conventional retail properties, they can be created quickly (not an irrelevant consideration given the pace the market is moving at), and they can be completed at a fraction of the cost of a conventional construction project. They can also be disassembled and reconfigured if the market changes again…
COVID changed everything, of course, but Retail has seen some particularly significant changes: especially on our ever-changing high streets…and Modular Construction is a key to meeting key changes in the sector.
Modulex is setting up the world’s largest steel modular buildings factory based in India. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of fast-evolving technologies and deliver at pace to meet the evolving needs of the community.