The Intersport store in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz shopping district is eight hours’ drive from the Alps. But by donning a virtual reality headset in the store, customers can schussboom down a black diamond ski slope, steer a kayak through whitewater rapids or chill out by an Alpine campfire.
The shop’s computer-augmented reality may hold the key to the future of retailing in Germany, which like malls in the US and elsewhere in Europe, is plagued by the migration of shoppers to online websites like Amazon and its German copycat, Zalando. The grim result is that some 50,000 stores in Germany are now expected to be shuttered by 2020.
“Over the next 10 years, we will see a change in retail greater than in the past four decades,” said Moritz Hagenmüller, a retail expert at consultants Accenture Strategy. “The entire retail business is being transformed by computer technology and fundamentally changing the sector’s business models.”