The robot sprays with a spray

Despite its venerable age of 113, Selfridges remains one of London’s destination department stores. Part of the reason it has stayed relevant is that it continues to reinvent itself. At present, the windows of Selfridges are decorated with displays centred around the theme of “Superfutures, Tomorrow in the Making.” Apart from being eye-catching (and to draw in curious shoppers), the thinking behind the initiative is to explore the future of retail.

Contained within Selfridges currently is SUPERMARKET. The retailer describes it as “an experimental concept store.” In the interests of research and being located just minutes from where your author works, he decided to pay it a visit. The main event, which dominates the room, is a robot, which can 3D-print any item a customer might want (within reason), from shoes through to recycled plastic furniture – if you’re prepared to wait and pay up. There’s also the chance to sample plant-based food products (courtesy of Redefine Meat), although sadly none was available when we visited. If this were not enough, why not try a fragrance made just from carbon dioxide?

Future related to the development of automated technology

Beyond the novelty and gimmickry, there is a serious point to the initiatives being undertaken by Selfridges. Recent global events have brought to the fore the issue of food security, even if we have argued for some time that we need to think about novel food solutions to reduce supply-demand imbalances. Forget about meat aisles in future supermarkets; instead, these will be replaced by a ‘protein aisle’, where plant- (and insect) based substitutes will be more prevalent. We have also written previously about the importance of reducing plastic waste. Recycling plastic is a step in the right direction.

Selfridges is also exploring novel ownership concepts. These include alternative jewellery pricing models and the launch of exclusive NFT digital artworks. While we have no views on the former, the broader trend of decentralising finance via solutions such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is only likely to grow. Total NFT sales reached $17.7bn in 2021, up over 200 times relative to 2020’s figure. Our next more detailed theme – out shortly – will address this topic in more detail. The future of retail will almost certainly be one of less cash and more digital payment solutions. It will also hopefully be one that is more sustainable.    

5 May 2022​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

Photos taken by author.



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