Retail in the city: is it surviving after all? – An interview with David Bosshart


Experiences instead of shopping: city centres are undergoing a fundamental change, with far-reaching consequences for the cityscape and retail. In an interview ahead of this year’s Retail Summit, David Bosshart, CEO of the GDI, addresses the question of what still characterises retail in the city – and how retail characterises the city.

How does retail change the city centre?

The tendency is for large historic towns to become prestige spaces again, similar to the situation in the 19th century. This is due to the fact that these cities are attracting more and more people, more and more tourists. This also increases the pressure on city centres to create a higher density of experiences.

Which retail concepts still have a future in cities?

The very small formats clearly have the most promising future. We wouldn’t have thought so five or ten years ago. Today, thanks to new technologies, we can operate ever smaller formats profitably. Due to demographic developments, health, wellness and beauty services will play an increasingly important role, in addition to gastronomy.

Besides this, it will also be increasingly important to keep neighbourhoods alive through retail. An example from Paris will be presented at the Retail Summit. There, the main focus lies on maintaining the mix between residential and traditional retail, i.e. between large chain stores and small shops. The latter are supported by the project, for example in terms of rent. This mix of shops is the most interesting option for customers.

E-commerce and delivery boom: what does this mean for city centres?

People are becoming more comfortable with e-commerce and they will continue to do so – that’s the trend. They are also quickly becoming accustomed to online shopping and to having goods available quickly – if possible, on the very same day they have been ordered. For the city centres, this raises the questions: which locations are suitable for interim storage? When is the ideal time for delivery? What is the least disruptive way to disrupt traffic? Which tasks can be carried out by e-bike or bicycle? How do you handle the situation with other road users such as e-cars or other alternative means of transport?

How can retailers stay in contact with their customers in the future?

Retailers are increasingly losing control over their interactions with consumers. Just think, for example, of touchpoints like payment systems: which are still dominated by retail? And where does the retailer still have a foot in the door? A second point is customer journeys. If you look at them, you will see with deep concern that the retail industry has lost power.

If retailers have the opportunity to interact with their customers physically, in person, they should use this as an opportunity – and offer not just a smile, but competence, sincerity and authenticity.

Why should you attend the International Trade Conference in 2020?

I can only repeat Gottlieb Duttweiler’s old saying, ‘Train the mind and cultivate the community’. We desperately need both.