Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer in an interview with Michael Krons (Phoenix).
Since the last decade, and especially since the corona pandemic, a rift has been running through the German retail sector. At the click of a mouse, you can have the world of goods delivered directly to your door without having taken a single step into a store. Added to this are ever faster and more efficient digital process chains with the associated business models and practices. The effects on the socio-cultural cohesion of our society are far-reaching. In many cities and communities, the first signs of negative effects on urban life are already becoming apparent: The more purchases are made online, the more stores close. The numbers and the speed are alarming. So is the end of brick-and-mortar retail – and with it the end of the city center – imminent?
Not necessarily. The “shopping experience” still plays a major role in inner-city stores that offer personal, individual customer advice. Market leaders from a wide variety of online industries are investing in equipping “offline stores” in order to reach customers in (literally) analog ways as well. These new appearances in central inner-city locations are sometimes giving rise to surprising forms of contemporary living and working in an urban context. In other words, the same forces that are driving the demise of traditional brick-and-mortar retail are creating new store concepts and new shopping experiences.
One of the tasks of our research department caspar.esearch is to identify such transformations of distribution and sales forms as clearly as their contexts, reasons and preconditions. There is no other way to foresee or meet the future demands and needs of urbanity and urban planning – transformation of retail means transformation of city centers! For this reason, caspar.esearch started the Retail in Transition study, which tracks and traces current trends in engineering and technology, real estate, urban planning and mobility in relation to urban life and the development of city centers. By the way, it is the first ever monograph on this subject. We want to encourage a public discussion about how cities should be planned, public places should be designed, and individual buildings can be revitalized so that they continue to meet the needs of their users. However, we, as architects, are primarily engaged in designing and realizing public spaces and buildings in which people can better realize and live out their potential. In doing so, we are always guided by our motto “The human scale”. Representatives of cities, architecture, urban planning, retail, real estate and project development will hopefully find useful ideas for the revitalization of urban shopping landscapes in Retail in Transition. After all, the aforementioned players in particular are involved in this debate. It concerns everyone. Therefore, we also hope that the publication will find the broad public without whom there would be no cities.