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By: Jeff Falk
Posted: November 18, 2010, from the December 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Maura Cannon, Jennifer Marino, Yumiko Nishikawa and Denee Pearson began their Fashion Institute of Technology The Future Of Beauty: The Future of Retail presentation (as part of their Master of Professional Studies degree in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduation program) with a critical quote from Marshall Cohen of NPD: “Retail as we know it has failed.”

The team described it as a wake-up call, and they used it as the jumping off point to assess what it means to be part of consumers’ lives moving forward.

Retailers, they said, should leverage honesty and transparency to communicate authenticity while embracing consumer input and using that to drive strategies. “Consumers want to sit in the driver’s seat. It is imperative to trust your customers, and embrace and incorporate their input.” At the same time, they noted, that retailers must also validate consumers’ virtual communities: “It is all about community. Retailers need to help the consumers connect and validate their choices through their network. It is critically important to be a part of their community.”

And though much emphasis has been placed on the online communities, we seem to have reached some equilibrium between online retail and brick and mortars—having gotten past the notion that online retail would be the demise of brick and mortars. In fact, the digital realm has become a very important driver for physical locations. In its August 30 issue, Bloomberg Businessweek noted that virtual and physical retail had been a lopsided battle in virtual’s favor, but pointed out the huge advantage that brick and mortar’s maintain.