Retail technology view from the top: Fujitsu's Rupal Karia

As new systems and digital capability continue to evolve the way retailers run their businesses, Essential Retail is gauging the views of the sector's main figureheads, via a series of exclusive interviews. This week, it's the turn of Fujitsu's managing director for retail and hospitality, Rupal Karia.

Two of the most intriguing retail stories over the last fortnight have highlighted some trends the industry should expect to see continue over the next 12 months, according to Fujitsu's managing director for retail and hospitality, Rupal Karia.

Rumours that Amazon is eyeing up property space from collapsed electricals retailer Radio Shack surfaced earlier this month, and Karia believes more and more online pure-plays will look to create a physical presence in 2015. He also suggests Argos's recent announcement that it will be opening stores within ten Sainsbury's supermarkets is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of retailer collaborations over the next 12 months.

Department stores have been doing it for years through concessions, of course, but perhaps it is the real-estate-heavy grocery market where the partnerships are going to emerge in the near future.

"It's all about how you compliment each other," Karia told Essential Retail.

"Argos and Sainsbury's is a very good fit; they don't really compete as it's only limited to some electricals items. There are benefits of sharing footfall."

He added: "All supermarkets probably have too much real estate. We see some of them trying to offload it, and with Tesco buying Giraffe and Harris & Hoole recently, it's a case of turning them into destination venues. I believe the large supermarkets will become more like destinations, with concessions and restaurants.

"The trend of companies collaborating is going to continue but actually you are probably going to get more than two retailers sharing space. It'll be three or four retailers working together."

Argos's new format digital stores will provide Sainsbury's customers with a choice of over 20,000 non-grocery products which they can either buy instantly in-store via tablets, or reserve online for collection the same or the following day. An extended range will also be made available for home delivery.

Set to open this summer, the stores-within-stores will range in size from around 1,000 to over 5,000 sq ft.

Fujitsu's retail lead says that anyone that waits too long to find the right retail partnerships "will be left behind", and cited Argos as a good example of a company that has created collaborations quickly through deals with the likes of Sainsbury's and eBay.

"I'm sure there are other companies speaking about how they can work together and I'd be surprised if we don't see at least a few more emerge over the next 12-month period."

The eBay partnership with Argos, where the latter acts as a location for click & collect pick-ups, is indicative of the wider online retail industry looking to establish a place on the high street. As in the case of Amazon's much speculated plans to create physical destinations, it is a way for online companies to give customers another place in which to engage with the brand and its products.

E-tailers are increasingly realising that the initial perceived customer convenience of delivery to home is being replaced with shoppers' desire to have items shipped to them wherever they are: be it at work, on the commute home or to a store, where they then have the option of easily returning the item if they no longer want it.

Karia said: "Online and in-store retailing are converging. A lot of retailers, such as eBay, have started online and gone on to the high street, and that's a trend that is going to continue.

"Online only is actually no longer a suitable way of shopping because people don't want to have to wait at home to collect their item or instruct someone else to pick it up if they are not available. People want to collect from stations and other convenient locations.

"Whether it's Amazon or someone else, any online-only retailer is looking to develop ways to service their clients. I'm a believer the high street isn't going anywhere, it'll be here for a long time to come but it'll be very different, with people shopping in the traditional way, while others use it as a place to collect."

Click below for more information:

Fujitsu Retail & Hospitality