Back to the retail future as new technology drives convenience, community and service for local shoppers


£9 billion boost to high street projected as study by NearSt and The Future Laboratory shows how new technology will drive footfall back into shops

New technology will allow local stores to fight back against the on-line retailers, using age old values of convenience, service and community, a study by retail technology innovators NearSt and research and innovation consultancy, The Future Laboratory has found.

The report examines how Real-Time Local Inventory (RTLI), an emerging type of data that shows where products are stocked in high street shops in real-time, is set to make it more convenient to shop nearby than order a product online.

This will enable local stores to offer greater flexibility, personalisation and connection with their community. The report explores recent trends including shoppability across social channels, increasing environmental awareness, and how the emergence of more local services will all combine with RTLI to create a new dynamism for the high street.

NearSt, a London-based retail technology company founded by Max Kreijn (35) and Nick Brackenbury (31) in 2015, contributed to the study with RTLI data from its NearLive platform. The business recently partnered with search giant Google, who are using its RTLI data directly in search to help shoppers more easily find products in their local stores.

Anecdotal evidence from NearSt’s current network of shops indicates that RTLI could drive up to £9 billion of sales back into the UK’s 200,000 high street shops, the equivalent of an average Briton making just seven additional high street purchases a year.

“Today it’s very much a case of going back to the future for retail,” says Nick Brackenbury, co-founder of NearSt. “Our parents would shop locally for a lack of other options, but benefited from the convenience, service, and community of buying nearby”.

“We’re close to a future where the best elements from that past will be unlocked once again, where your phone will know that the shop down the road has what you want, rather than an online shop shipping products from hundreds of miles away.”

Working with NearSt, The Future Laboratory spoke to global retail experts from Singapore to Boston, and researched new retail concepts from Qingdao to Stockholm, to identify a number of trends that will define the future of retail and the high street. These include:

1.Community Curation

Retailers will better understand their customers through a combination of local understanding, overlain with hyper-local demand data. RTLI technology will be central to this future vision, enabling a feedback loop delivering better experiences for both shoppers and shops.


Retail space will be rethought in more dynamic ways as there becomes a reduced need to carry stock that isn’t in demand. RTLI data will show retailers local shopper preferences, enabling them to always stock the right product, at the right time, for the right customer.

3.Personalised Pathways

Paths to purchase will be personalised to individuals based on location and their likely intentions. RTLI data will alert retailers to shoppers heading to the store and enable them to customise suggestions.

4.Dynamic Discounting

Discounts will happen in real-time as retailers are able to assess fluctuating demand through on-hand data. RTLI will alert retailers to what is and isn’t in demand, enabling them to change their prices quickly in response.

5.Connected Locales

By 2025, ecosystems of community retail and businesses will develop as everyone works together to support their locale. RTLI will play a major role in connecting the dots for local retailers and this could result in scenarios where businesses recommend each other based on purchase e.g. by saying ‘you’ve just bought a dress, the hairdresser opposite has an appointment in 15 minutes’.

The High Street Futures Report is available to download from