By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Sep 14, 2009 at 8:03 PM

Today I attended several sessions at day two of the International Downtown Association's annual meeting at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee. During the next two weeks, I will blog on different topics covered at the conference.

First up are some retail tidbits and eight growth areas in Downtown retail. These come from Michael Stumpf from Place Dynamics, a consulting company in New Berlin. Stumpf was a part of a session at the conference called, "Retail Graduate School: The Future of Retail."  John Archer from Urban Marketing Collaborative (a division of J.C. Williams Group) with offices in Toronto, Chicago and Montreal also presented.  

While I took away many ideas from the session, one of the biggest, if not most obvious, is that online is still the fasting growing retail channel. Panelists predicted 15 percent annual growth and a total of $281 billion in all online sales by 2013. Amazing.

Where's the other growth in retail coming from? Place Dynamics says:

  • Pets and pet services. After all, there are more dogs in America than kids under the age of 18.
  • Home and garden. The Gardening sector experienced major growth in the last year.
  • Health and alternative health.
  • Products for the reluctantly aging (massages, spas, vitamins, etc.).
  • Goods and services targeted at ethnic populations.
  • Green / organic / local.
  • Experienced-based retail.
  • Ready to go / grab and go / anytime open establishments.

As far as trends in retail, Place Dynamics and Urban Marketing Collaborative said:

  • Watch for a shift from aspiration shopping -- not everyone who wants a BMW will buy one.
  • Local and community shopping will continue to grow.
  • Post-recession spending will rise to at least 85 percent of pre-recession levels.
  • Shoppers will buy fewer, but more meaningful items.
  • Solution-orientated shopping will become stronger.

The bottom line is that the customer still matters in all retail. But, increasingly we don't just buy, we buy solutions. A case in point is Zappos. While a retailer, it bills itself as a "service company that happens to sell!" 

What are your thoughts on the future of retail? Use the Talkback feature.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.