How shopping streets can stay relevant

Photo: T.W. van Urk /

With the departure of both River Island and New Look from the Meir, the future for Antwerp's main shopping street may look bleak. But the retailers aim to strike back: the shopping street of the future will offer more than just shops.


Experience first

After the announced closures of River Island and New Look on the Meir in Antwerp, the future of the shopping street may be in question. There is a future, but it will be very different, according to RetailDetail's founder Jorg Snoeck and Nico Volckeryck in local newspaper Gazet Van Antwerpen.


Like all major shopping streets, the Meir will become an 'experience street' that combines shopping with other functions. "Shops will be places where you can experience more than just buying things," says Snoeck, co-author of The Future of Shopping. Good examples of store concepts that bring experience to the street are the scent experience at Juttu, Granny's Finest (a Dutch shop where elderly ladies knit hats and scarfs along with the customers) or Globetrotter in Cologne, where you can even row a little boat.


“Other purposes than selling”

"There will be buildings where other services can be found such as doctors, dentists and service companies. They will also help to get the shopper out of the house," Volckeryck adds. The change towards more experience is necessary, but there will also be buildings with "other purposes than selling". As a result, the shopping street will become more social. "We see that customers want to shop again like they used to fifty years ago," Volckeryck continues. "With a friendly hello and lots of genuine social contact. People are getting tired of their smartphones. I am sure that stores on and around the Meir will make use of that."


Nevertheless, tourists who come shopping remain a major advantage to the city. "The main reason why tourists visit Antwerp is shopping. That is why the shops on the Meir will need to be open every single Sunday," Snoeck believes. "You have to know that 80 % of today's purchases still take place in the store buildings. Still, the street will have to get with the times."