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The future of ‘live’ physical shopping is in jeopardy.

And its survival in a world of online buying and robot-store experiences may well depend on the bravery and creativity of adventurous designers, decorators, and architects…

…as well as suppliers of stylish, practical and eclectic decoration systems such as those created for over 15 years by Panespol® .

But if the artists who create the look of retail stores are to give free rein to their imaginations, they are certainly going to need the technological know-how, design flexibility, and sharp creative judgement that Panespol® can offer.

And there is no time to lose. The battle has already begun to save the physical retail experience now threatened by online shopping.

This year sees the launch of Amazon GO, fully-automated physical stores with no check-outs, stark warehouse-style interiors…the arrival of the robotic age into our everyday lives. Many people will argue there is no need for shops with special ambiences; you go in, scan your store id or fingerprints, grab what you came for, and take it. No queues. No cashiers. No need to search. No need to ‘shop’ – you’ll have done that on your mobile while drinking coffee in a chic café outlet (possibly a franchise decorated using smart Panespol® wall-coverings).

Experts have long been predicting the steady decline of actual stores, while recent statistics have shown that virtual shopping—so-called e-commerce or B2C—is gradually increasing its share of global sales figures, with China, India, Germany, Britain, and Brazil at the forefront. Figures from the stats firm Bigcommerce indicate that 91% of US consumers have bought online.

The results of recent surveys suggest that in Spain 61% of people are more likely to buy from an online retailer if the product price is lower than in actual shops. (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2016 retail survey)

It should come as no surprise that the negative effect of the online buying boom has been hitting small outlets even harder and faster than it has affected well-organised chains and multinationals. In the first half of 2015, this meant that for the first time more independent shops in the UK closed than opened. High streets have become more homogenous as multinationals continue to move in where bijou, individual operations fail. But the threat is there for giants too.

While the mobile phone is becoming the consumer’s preference in shopping tools, there is much evidence that desire for products remains as strong as ever. The big challenge now facing many retail businesses is how to re-connect the old craving to purchase to actual physical outlets.

Slashing prices, offering exclusives, and jumping on board collective promotions such as Black Friday can bring positive spikes in sales. But these are all strategies that online businesses can benefit from too.

So, what differential effects can real shops and centres bring into play to keep footfall steady?

Some stores will resort to events, such as the old chestnut of inviting a celebrity along to bring in the crowds.

But as part of a necessary process of reinventing the physical surroundings of stores, and revolutionising the look and mood of interiors, business owners must switch on their imaginations and push design, fantasy, and style up their list of priorities. You can’t bring in celebrities like Santa Claus outside of Christmas, but what you can do is recreate the ambience of his grotto all year round.

Architecture installations are catching on. One Brooklyn sports shoe store recently prettied up its interior by hanging 700 replica Nike Air Jordan sneakers from its ceiling.

A searching creative mind, however, will see no limits as to what might be planned for shop interiors (and why not exteriors too?) just as long as there is a company willing and able to make whatever shapes and surfaces such projects require, and to deliver them to deadlines.

That company is Panespol® . We have a LAB team that can sit down with your sketches and notes and help architects and decorators bring their ideas to life, however spectacular or freaky. We already work with different materials, from our own patents in synthetic polymers to natural moss from the wild surfaces of European woodlands.

And Panespol® can meet bulk orders for huge worldwide orders.

So, we’re asking creatives to shake off the barriers within their imaginations and come up with designs for shops and public spaces that will draw in the crowds and remind them that the instant gratification of really seeing, really touching and buying products can be as fulfilling an experience as an outing to an exhibition, gallery, or another world.

Only an untrammelled creative process can free us from a future without the social interaction of towns and cities with shops, and the time-honoured thrill of buying in them.

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