AI CX E-commerce Fashion Fast fashion Podcast Retail trends Technology

Ikea Roblox, Walmart Drones & AI Update, Pretty Little Thing Charging for Returns

The interview from this episode originally aired on The Globalist from Monocle Radio. Natalie discusses the latest global retail stories with Georgina Godwin:

  • Ikea’s Roblox venture: the launch of a virtual store and how Ikea has become the first brand to offer paid work on the gaming platform.
  • Walmart’s tech update: innovation in delivery – drones and at-home delivery – and the beta launch of a generative AI-powered shopping assistant.
  • Pretty Little Thing becomes the latest UK retailer to start charging for returns.

You can listen to the original episode of The Globalist Episode 3352.

Click here to display content from

ESG Fashion Podcast

International Women’s Day with Dame Zandra Rhodes

It’s International Women’s Day this week and who better to speak to than the iconic and wonderfully inspirational fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes?

This conversation was recorded live on stage at Springfair in February 2024. Dame Zandra tells Natalie about:

  • The highs and lows of breaking into the US fashion scene in the 1960s.
  • How she has spent her life rallying against what was expected of her – both as a designer and a female.
  • How her personal image has led to the success of her brand and more recent collaborations with IKEA, Happy Socks and Poppy Lissiman.
  • What it was like to dress Freddie Mercury and which cultural icon she’d love to work with today.
  • Her rainbow penthouse and pandemic pivots.
  • Fashion retail trends – from the rise of digital to the need for circularity. 
  • What’s next for Dame Zandra?

Click here to display content from

Retail trends

Peak stuff: the rise of rental retail

Whenever I give talks on the store of the future, I always sum up with this line: the store won’t just be a place to transact but also to eat, play, work, discover, learn and borrow.

There’s usually a lot of nodding heads until I mention the b-word. Fair enough – shops naturally want to sell, rather than lend, to their customers.

In fact, our very economy depends on it.

Over half a century ago, American economist Victor Lebow noted how the economy “demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption… we need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing pace.”

That was in 1955.

The times are finally changing. We are entering an age where access will trump ownership. This is due to the combination of a growing population, unprecedented connectivity and shifts in consumer values and priorities.

We are no longer defined by our material possessions. Instead, we’re opting to spend less on stuff and more on experiences.

Last year, according to a Barclaycard UK survey, expenditure on entertainment and travel generated the highest growth (9% and 7% respectively), while spending in most discretionary retail categories was either flat or in decline.

Millennials and younger generations are increasingly – though not necessarily willingly – forgoing ownership of homes, cars, bikes, music, books, DVDs, clothes and even pets. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, products will become services and the notion of shopping will become a “distant memory”.

The trend is compounded by a growing awareness of sustainability and, therefore, more mindful consumption. The concept of a circular economy is gaining momentum and it’s going to hit retail hard.

Service, share and rent

Ikea made waves with its recent announcement of a trial furniture rental scheme in Switzerland. This might sound like a radical departure for the flatpack king, but let’s not forget that Ikea was one of the first retailers to address the rather thorny topic of ‘peak stuff’ a few years back.

It has since set the ambitious goal of using only renewable and recycled materials in its products by 2030. In some markets, Ikea already buys back used furniture so the rental scheme is a natural extension.

When Boots boss Seb James was running Dixons Carphone, he acknowledged that shoppers were only “grazing on ownership” and expressed an interest in a similar type of subscription model for durable goods.

And you can see what’s in it for the retailer. Aside from the obvious eco brownie points, rental schemes allow retailers to get closer to customers by offering additional services such as assembly and repairs. This idea of ‘retail as a service’ is exactly why Ikea acquired Taskrabbit last year.

In today’s market, you have to transcend the transaction and develop a deeper emotional connection with your customers.

The category most familiar with rental retail is fashion. Luxury retailers have spearheaded the trend, with Rent the Runway describing itself as the world’s largest dry cleaner. But can it go mainstream?

Property giant Westfield thinks so. Its vision for the shopping centre of the future, dubbed Destination 2028, reflects the rise in the sharing economy with space dedicated to renting everything from clothes to exercise gear.

Rental retail makes sense, first and foremost, for those categories where the product itself can be delivered digitally – music, video, etc. And there is clearly demand for rental fashion among younger consumers which could solve the industry’s latest dilemma: ‘wardrobing’ (the ugly, unintended consequence of free delivery and returns).

But for those products that don’t become services, retailers should be seeking to extend their lifecycle. The days of throwaway fashion are numbered, and high street retailers are already taking steps to address our culture of waste.

H&M, for example, runs ‘Take Care’ workshops in some stores to educate shoppers on how to get more life out of their wardrobe.

Whether it’s teaching customers how to remove a stain or leasing them an entire kitchen, retailers need to start thinking of new, innovative ways to serve a more conscious, no-strings-attached consumer.

A version of this article originally appeared on Retail Week.