Retail, shopping & leisure

Only one book in the window

A newish bookshop in the Suzuki building in Tokyo has taken editing to an extreme by selling just one book. Morioka Shoten Ginza follows the philosophy of ‘Issatsu, Isshitsu’, which means ‘A Single Room, A Single Book’.

The shop sells one book per week and holds an event each week to discuss it. On one hand this is a completely crazy idea, but on another it’s pretty marvellous – dare we say Zen? Instead of offering floors of books or taking endless space in an online store, Morioka Shoten Ginza is taking curation and customer guidance to a new level.

The best books are often bought by way of personal recommendation so why not trust someone else to find you something interesting to read?

The concept reminds us slightly of high-end restaurants where there’s no menu. You eat what the chef found that morning and thinks is worth eating. It also links with an old Japanese retail trend of curated consumption, for example, shops like RanKing RanQueen that simply sells the top items in any given category, but rotates with a ‘guest product’ from time to time.

Ref:, 16 September 2015, ‘Japanese bookstore sells only one book per week, which is one way to decide what to read’, by A. Heimbach.
Search words: Too much choice, curation, editing, books, bookshops
Trend tags: Too Much information

The new ethical consumer

Remember the ethical consumer? This was someone who cared deeply about how and where things were made and about the ethical, environmental and social policies of giant corporations, especially retailers. We even had temporary boycotts when customers discovered that the low cost of cheap fashion had a high price for factory workers in places like India.

Ethical buying never exactly disappeared but, with the global financial meltdown, worries were focused on matters closer to home. However, new research from Mintel, the customer research firm, says 56 per cent of US shoppers now actively stop buying products from companies they consider unethical.

The study also found 35 per cent of shoppers would stop buying brands they regard as unethical even if there is no substitute available. The research also highlights a feeling of distrust and cynicism that can be observed elsewhere, for example, recent Edelman and PEW studies about declining levels of trust.

Around half of US shoppers also say they believe ‘ethical’ marketing is simply a ploy to get people to buy more ‘stuff’.

Ref: Mintel (US), ‘The Ethical Consumer report’ 2015.
Search words: ethical consumer, distrust, brands
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Is the mobile wallet finally here?

The mobile phone has replaced, at least partially, landline telephones, cameras, video recorders, memo pads, crossword puzzles, bingo halls and maps. So is it finally time to add wallets and physical money to the list?

New NFC (Near Field Communication) technology allows a smart phone to be used for contactless payments, which potentially negates the need for plastic credit and debit cards, physical notes and coins. Apple Pay launched in July 2015 and Samsung and Google both have their own versions.

The main advantage is clearly convenience, especially speed, but there are still security concerns. Also, what happens if your phone is lost or runs out of power? Mobile retail - shopping online with a phone and using phones to locate items in stores and pay for them - potentially without ever queuing with fellow shoppers at a cash desk, is likely to be transformational in the years ahead.

Ref: Daily Telegraph (UK), 3 April 2016, ‘Advances in mobile technology are starting to pay off’ by R. Williams.
Search words: NFC, Apple Pay, mobile, cashless payments
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Emotional retail and other experiences

We’ve had silent films, the talkies, Smello-vision and 3D movies and next, could be ‘feelies’. These are films where the audience gets to feel the sensations experienced by the characters in the movie. It sounds like an idea from science fiction, which of course it is. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, featured ‘feelies.’

How does it work? The technology is being developed by scientists at Sussex University (UK) and uses haptics, which is essentially the science of vibration. By using ultrasound waves, feelings that range from excitement to fear can be replicated.

Meanwhile, Alex Ayad, former head of the Foresight Practice at Imperial College London, has claimed that, in the future, it could be possible to purchase high quality emotions online. This could radically revolutionise not only entertainment and communications, but retail.

For example, imagine receiving a message from a friend who is attending a music festival. The attached image comes embedded with an emotion you can download and use to share in the experience.

How might this work? This technology would most probably use direct brain simulation, using information written onto single neurons. This means wearable devices, such as clothing or caps, would download and then transmit the feelings directly to our brains.

Taken to an extreme, this might mean people could purchase online emotions just like they download music or movies today. An artist wishing to experience melancholy, for example, could simply order the right feeling.

Ref: The Daily Telegraph (UK) 21 October 2015, ‘Back to the Future Day: Six experts predict life in 2045’, The Week (UK) 20 February 2016, ‘First “movies”, then “talkies”…now prepare for “feelies”, Anon.
Search words: emotion, haptics, ‘feelies’
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Why humans love things

Last year a meme developed online when someone randomly posted: “Sometimes, when I grab a cup from my cabinet, I will grab one that's in the back and never gets used because I think the cup feels depressed that it isn't fulfilling its life of holding liquids."

Strange? Not really. Humans have a deep seated need to be among other humans and we also form emotional attachments with physical objects and spaces, two reasons why online living and virtual worlds are unlikely to move beyond a certain point.

Some cultures obviously believe that objects or even landscapes can hold spirits, but the idea of projecting feelings into inanimate objects happens all over the world.

In the early 1900s Donald Winnicott, a British paediatrician and child psychoanalyst, said as babies grow older and separate from their parents, they use objects such as blankets and teddy bears to ease anxiety. These objects then become linked with the parents, even when they are not present.

Sometimes these feelings and the use of objects to ease anxiety can be transferred into adulthood. But we do make inanimate objects human just to ease anxiety. We have always, since Ancient Greece, indulged in ‘anthropomorphism’, an idea first thought up by philosopher Xenophanes. This term means we make inanimate objects, or even animals, human.

Because we are emotionally driven, we attach ourselves to many things, whether it is a cup at the back of the cupboard, a handkerchief from a first love, or a stone from our favourite beach. These are all tangible versions of emotion. They are physical and they can be touched.

Is it any wonder then that the need to touch something is so powerful? It explains why virtual reality will not be able to satisfy until it offers the presence of objects that can be touched and kept. It also explains why new haptic technology for movies, known as ‘feelies’, could be so welcome.

See Emotional retail and other experiences, above.

Ref: PS Mag (US), 21 February 2016, ‘A history of humans loving inanimate objects’ by P. Hiebert.
Search words: objects, anxiety, emotional attachment
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What next? Self-lacing shoes

According to Newsweek magazine, Nike plans to start selling a version of Marty McFly’s self-lacing shoes, as seen in the movie Back to The Future.
Ref: Newsweek (US), January/February 2016, ‘Tomorrow’s Trends’, Anon.