As the international borders and barriers come down and the free flow of products goes up, even the smallest mom-and-pop store will be swept up in change.
The main trends in the retail industry include fragmentation, specialization and differentiation. Increasing cultural diversity and ethnic insulation lead to market fragmentation. Certainly a number of established retailers are poised to capitalize on the one common denominator that cuts across racial and ethnic diversity--the persistent emphasis on bang-for-the- buck, or value. However, currently most retailers are ill equipped to capitalize on the new opportunities promised by market fragmentation because they do not have access to the expertise required to understand the behavioral manifestations of cultural heritage and ethnic identification (Levy and Weitz 2004). The leading retailers of the 1990s will be those that shore up the knowledge gap by recruiting, hiring, training, and promoting people or by employing outside consultants from cultural and ethnic backgrounds corresponding to those market fragments that promise the greatest profit potential (The Committee for the History of Retailing and Distribution 2009).
Although the UK market has grown in absolute terms, the 1990s promise smaller targets of opportunity, both in sheer size and in duration. The factors fueling population growth are conspiring to produce what some have termed "the death of the mass market--and mass marketing" (Levy and Weitz 2004). Although birthrates continue their downward trend, immigration and longer life expectancy are more than sufficient to make up the difference (Interactive Media in Retail Group 2009). The unprecedented emergence of the "gray market" and the rebirth of "ethnic markets" have fractured the mass market--not beyond recognition, but certainly into fragments. Retailers are generally the first to sense significant change in the marketplace; they are like front-line shock troops on a battlefield. Overall, the decipherable threads of demographic, psychographic, and life-style change in the market signal growing market fragmentation (British Retail Consortium 2009).
Income and wealth-holding patterns are evolving rapidly. The middle class is shrinking, whereas both the upper and lower classes are growing. As a result, the financial resources available to households are very different now than in the past. A much larger percentage of households than ever before is now considered wealthy and possesses the buying power to satisfy a great many desires. The sale of high-end products (e.g., $3500 television sets) has been facilitated by this trend. On the other hand, a large percentage of households is considered poor in an economic sense (Levy and Weitz 2004). These households are constrained in the merchandise that they can afford; even the purchase of bare necessities can be problematical. The numerical increase at the high end of the income distribution is due, in part, to the