Auckland's Heart of the City is again hosting its annual Four Days of Fashion in the City event which experts say is a glimpse of the future of retail.
The event, which will run from March 21 to 24, will include a number of in-store interactives from 20 retailers including Barkers, Mi Piaci, Sunglass Hut and Storm and exhibitions from designers Juliette Hogan, Kate Sylvester and Zambesi.
In-store experiences include music and nibbles with Barkers, which is also offering shaves from its Groom Room, styling with clothing retailer Moochi and photo booth sessions with Sunglass Hut.
With the drive to break-out of traditional sales models, retail consultant Chris Wilkinson said the "experiential" event would enable retailers and brands to connect with consumers on another level.
"Retail is changing rapidly with stores being used as much to sell product as they are a showroom that customers are inspired by," Wilkinson said.
"Inspiration and aspiration is vital to keep consumers connected with shopping destinations and brands, so Heart of the City's events are a strategic move to maintain and strengthen visitation, sales and customer advocacy."
Heart of the City has been running the event for seven years. Preparation begins in September, and it has this year secured New Zealand Fashion Museum's Bruce Papas exhibition collection, set to be on display at Smith & Caughey's.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the fashion event gave retailers the opportunity to band together and "celebrate" collective retail.
"[The] event last year saw great participation at a wide range of events and retailers were overwhelmingly positive [about it]. Spend was up year on year for the areas that were activated," Beck said. "Events like this generate excitement and often create an experience or offer that isn't available at any other time, which often translates to sales – either on the day or afterwards."
Beck said the trend towards experiential retail was expected to continue.
"Technology will enable many changes, but people are still going to want to get out and come to a great place where they can meet friends, enjoy different experiences and buy things they love.
"It's a dynamic and changing industry that will keep enhancing the customer experience in a range of different ways over time."
Shopping of the future would evolve around better in-store experiences and retailers collaborating, Wilkinson said.
"It's really important that retailers mirror their marketplace, that they're able to have localised, unique initiatives," he said.
"We foresee future emergence of more collective retail activities, even co-locations, and I think the future of retail will see certain brands co-locating - there could even be a small food and beverage offer within those co-locations, like mini department stores.
"Clusters of retailers creates a defensible proposition to consumers against the internet. The benefits of the internet of course is that it gives better range and convenience, and clustering is a good way of offering other benefits consumers would find online - but in a traditional shopping environment."
In terms of incoming trends, Wilkinson said he expected New Zealand retail to become more diversified with online.
"We're going to see more and more stores offering a wider range than what they physically have in the store, it's what we call an extended catalogue," he said.
"Experiential environments are really, really strong. It's absolutely vital that retailers represent the area [they are in] and make sure they mirror the marketplace."