With the death of Sears Canada, had become obvious that retail is changing way quicker than anticipated by economists.

Back in the 90’s, I suspected something was going on in the industry because one of the stores I had expected to have a future went under a few years after I had left the company.

Consumers Distributing was a chain of stores in Canada and the United States that operated with catalogs like Sears but dedicated only a small portion of their retail space to displays at all of their stores. And most of their merchandise could be found stacked on shelves the back of their outlets, which were brought forward by associates to the consumer, who chose their products from catalogs located in the retail space.

Had they survived into the 2000’s, I suspect they would have progressed from their six-digit catalog system, where people physically presented order slips to an order desk or called an order in using their credit cards, to a touchscreen system that simply gave consumers an order number. And I suspect Amazon would have simply purchased the company, automating the warehouse space further.

Unfortunately, the 212 store chain went under because Sears Canada had a foothold in the catalog market and it just could not survive both the recession of the time and Walmart’s expansion into the Canadian market. But I suspect Amazon may have a limited number of retail outlets that closely resemble Consumer’s Distributing stores in the future, where people could place orders and pick up purchases 24/7 from coded lockers.

Amazon Pickup Point locations already exist in Canada and the United States. And I believe they will likely expand these to Whole Foods locations, a chain that was recently purchased by Amazon.com, creating one stop shop locations in the major cities.

I’m personally hoping they’re going to convert my local Sears Home store here in Western Ottawa to a Whole Foods/Amazon outlet. But I doubt they will consider taking over that many Sears retail stores because the large department store format is pretty much dead.

Consumers are previewing merchandise online so retailers will not need to provide as many displays as they did before. And with 3D technology, I suspect people will scroll through merchandise on virtual reality headsets with customized 3D imagery before 2020.

Optometrist retailer sites already offer services in which people can place frames on their faces and all one would need to do in the very near future is to provide their measurements for virtual models, who would wear clothing for consumers to preview.

Norstrom currently offers a service where clothing is set aside for people to try out and I suspect other stores will offer this convenience shortly through their website, with the aforementioned virtual modeling. And I wouldn’t be surprised some stores would offer perks like high-end coffee and/or liquor through these services as well.

In regards to drones and self-driving vehicles, I don’t know if drones would be the best choice for our weather.

Not only does it get quite cold in most of Canada’s major cities during the winter, it also gets quite windy.

Those who have tried to take digital photographs in the cold here can attest to issues related to draining batteries and I’m sure that drones would be constantly slammed on the side of buildings and into trees by the wind in my suburb. We even get the occasional microburst here.

Self-driving vehicles are currently being tested in my community and I’m expecting pizza/food delivery to be the first service in my area to take advantage of this new technology. But I doubt I’ll be seeing drones delivering goods in my area before 2020, especially fragile items.

The Transport Canada regulations to fly drones are quite tight and I believe we are more likely to get deliveries from our grocery stores and pharmacies in normal vehicles for quite some time. Several of my local grocery stores have only recently started offering click and collect services.

I personally don’t see many advances in music retail either.

As you may or may not know, I had originally wanted to have a career in music retailing. But when the MP3 came along I knew stores would likely go online.

Vinyl sales will continue to expand slightly until higher resolution recordings become the norm and offer the depth of vinyl. And High Definition radio will eventually become the norm, requiring consumers to purchase equipment to listen to the higher resolution recordings, although most stations will likely continue to broadcast in FM and simply include high definition recording data on the same signal.

I don’t believe Canada will follow Norway’s example and go all digital because we haven’t gone all digital when it comes to television in the minor markets. And the government will probably want as much access to Canadians as possible for emergency and weather-related broadcasts so I won’t personally be purchasing an HD radio compatible device for some time.

Even if I wanted to purchase a receiver now they’re over $100 at the moment and there are only three of four HD radio stations in my city. It just isn’t a priority for most and will not likely be until well past 2020, although virtual reality multi-cam live concerts could be a “thing” soon.

4k cameras are getting incredibly compact and can be placed in multiple discrete locations at venues, enabling broadcasts to fans via the internet now. Mostly static front row, mezzanine, and other multiple angle shots but we can just imagine what they’ll be able to do soon with VR headsets. 360-degree 4k live shots of entire performances from the front row or stage, perhaps?

I don’t expect everything to happen next year but it’ll be quite interesting after 2020.