Gorgeous, autonomous, decentralised retail

skylanders toy - will self-driving shops look like toys?

You know that self-driving cars are on the way. There’s an extension of that; self-driving shops (SDS). They’ll be electric, so running cost will be a fraction of a petrol vehicle. It means they’ll park themselves on a street, wait for an order, then drive to you and transact.

They’ll probably have intelligent avatars who/which will negotiate the price with you. They’ll be programmed with engaging personalities. When an SDS runs out of Mars Bars or the bread gets stale they’ll return to their warehouse and be replenished by a robot. We’ll see sophisticated merchandising; each SDS will be themed according to the products they sell and they’ll be designed to attract attention. Not just moving shops; moving billboards. Logically, since they will not be passenger vehicles, government should release them from the design constraints imposed to protect human passengers. They can be built for show. They will look stunning.

One of the most jolted sectors will be real estate. Retail real estate. For some categories of goods, self-driving shops will be more cost-effective than bricks and mortar. Even saying ‘bricks and mortar’ makes me feel old. If one of those cost efficiencies is department stores, malls will lose anchor tennants. At that point, the mall sales model collapses; the end of the Gruen Effect and a decentralisation of retail that will re-set the price of centralised real-estate.

Article inspired by the Great Retail Meltdown in The Atlantic. Toy car image by Skylanders.

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