Inconspicuous spending and the new status symbols
An appetite for modes of shopping that go beyond the purely transactional and a backlash against conspicuous consumption can be seen the world over, says The Future Laboratory’s Chris Sanderson. He explains: “Across all sectors and almost all income groups we’re seeing people no longer simply equating the purchase of a product with status, now status is wrapped up with the experience and inspiration and knowledge that a purchase can provide.”
He says a new generation of affluent consumers are redefining what constitutes luxury and seeking out items that signify virtue, cultural elitism or health before ostentatious acquisition. This means anything from a $20 bar of handmade Claus Porto soap to a $2000 S’well reusable water bottle aligned with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation can become a status symbol. By extension, a niche brand can now be as powerful a drawcard for a shopping destination as a heritage one.
In addition to heralding the growth of guilt-free fashion labels such as Hong Kong-based BYT, the Future Forecast highlights examples of youth rebellion against stereotypes that equates material wealth with success such as the parodying of the ‘falling star’ meme in China.
Sanderson continues: “People’s interest in a product is increasingly tied to self-definition and to the acquisition of knowledge because knowledge is power.
“Just look at food service and how restaurateurs are feeling it’s incumbent on them to include more information on their menus – we don’t just want to know who’s cooking our beef, we want to know what the cow’s name was and what kind of grass it ate and how much nutritional value a specific piece of steak contains,” he adds.
The blurring of beauty, self-care and health
The report outlines how technological developments are giving rise to hybrid medicalised salons and at the same time that at-home beauty rituals are coming to incorporate ingestibles and Silicon Valley-inspired gadgets.
Sanderson says: “We're anticipating a big change in terms of the crossover between medicine, wellness and beauty, including an increase in devices to counteract the impact of modern living on our wellbeing.” With salons, spas and clinics that blend holistic and medical approaches to beauty and wellness set to become regular checkpoints in people’s self-care routines, he believes it makes sense for shopping centres to house these services.
The busiest retail precincts, suggests Sanderson, will be those that also manage to seamlessly blend retail with fitness and leisure activities such as walking trails or indoor climbing. Even silence can be commodified as consumers seek to combat sensory overload, lending new importance to soundproofed spaces within lifestyle precincts.
Indeed, as urban dwellers become more aware of the impact that environment has on personal wellbeing, it is worth considering how we rank physical experiences. The Harvard-developed BioSay app, for example, tracks biometric data on your emotions, stress and energy levels to help you identify and recommend places that have the most positive impact on your health.
From stress monitoring to paying for goods through face detection, Sanderson says we have “barely scratched the surface” of what biometrics can be used for.