The Futurist Speaker

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Thomas Frey

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The demise of local retail stores has been painful to watch. Empty storefronts and weed-infested parking lots are gut-wrenching symbols of community decay.

So if I told you there was an immediate way to turn this around, would that catch your attention?

This whole transformation in thinking started with a short visit on Saturday to “The Source,” an artisan food market inside a former 1880‘s brick foundry in Denver’s River North District.

Located far away from most retail, I quickly became enamored with how this eclectic mix of 15 shops could attract a packed house on a cold wintery day in February to an industrial part of town.

This brief experience caused me to spend countless hours over the following days researching similar developments around the country. For me, the collision course of intersecting trends in retail has become a full-blown obsession. (Just for the record, obsessions are underrated.)

To summarize briefly:

  • The first shopping mall was born in Edina, MN in 1956. After peaking in 1990, there have been no new malls built in the U.S. since 2006.
  • Big-box retailing was born in 1962. That’s the year when Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target all opened their first big stores. After 50 years of putting mom and pops out of business, big-box retail is now struggling.
  • In 1994, Jeff Bezos launched Amazon as an online bookseller. Twenty years later it has emerged as the primary reason big-box stores are shutting down.
  • In 2005, MAKE Magazine published it’s first issue, signaling the beginning of the makers movement. Words like “handcrafted,” “home grown,” “authentic,” and “artisan original,” suddenly entered the public lexicon.

With retail stores closing, consumers are left with fewer options for out-of-the-home forms of entertainment, and a pent-up demand for meaningful experiences.

This collision course of trends is creating the perfect storm for the next retail revolution – Maker Districts.

A maker district can best be described as a cross between an artist colony, farmers market, woodworking shop, music festival, bakery, brewpub, and brainstorming session all happening in the same space. It’s all that and more.

Here’s why I see Maker Districts entering your lives in a big way.

Very Impressed

Thought-provoking and Inspiring

Fascinating, idea-generating talk! You delivery was very funny, but at the same time thought-provoking and inspiring.…Read More

Gary Taylor, VP Coldwell Banker

I Can't Wait

Excellent Presentation

Thank you for your excellent presentation in Jacksonville. It was a pleasure spending time with you, and your “Future of Education” speech was extremely well received. 84% of our attendees rated t…Read More

Larry Fairman, Director, Florida Workforce Summit