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Uncertainty is the new normal for retailers – and consumption researchers

Clothes hanging on display in a store. Photo.
Emma Samsioe and Carys Egan-Wyer highlight three retail megatrends, in their new anthology: Technology, sustainability, and consumer well-being. Photo: Louise Larsson

The research areas remain the same, but our perspective on them has changed. This is how consumption researchers Carys Egan-Wyer and Emma Samsioe describe the development in retail research over the past ten years.

“In one of our recent reports, we call it 'Retail as unusual.' There is no longer a normal state in trade, no 'Business as usual.' Everything has become more uncertain,” says Carys Egan-Wyer, senior lecturer in Marketing at Lund University School of Economics and Management (LUSEM)

She is the deputy director of the Centre for Retail Research, together with, among others, Emma Samsioe. The Centre is a collaborative platform shared between LUSEM, LTH, and Campus Helsingborg. This year, the centre celebrates ten years of excellence in retail research.

Carys Egan-Wyer and Emma Samsioe have, together with Kristina Bäckström, been editors of the recently published anthology The Future of Consumption. The book highlights three megatrends in retail.

“Technology, sustainability, and consumer well-being are in focus. The starting point was topics that we researchers at the centre have discussed with the industry at various seminars in recent years. But we also have contributions from the USA and Australia, so there is an interesting breadth of material,” says Emma Samsioe, associate senior lecturer in Service Management at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University.

Retail trends

Emma Samsioe emphasises that the topics they address in the book are forward-looking, but also that the trends already affect trade and retail research today. The texts in the book range from buying happiness to overproduction and the future of the physical store in the digital age.

“We have long studied how digitalisation affects retail. But some things that were news ten years ago are standard now, such as being able to pick up your orders in parcel lockers,” says Carys Egan-Wyer.

“Customer experience has always been important in retail research and will continue to be important,” adds Emma Samsioe.

Much changed during the pandemic

According to the two researchers, the pandemic put focus on mental and physical well-being in regards to consumption. Much changed during the pandemic, not least in how many researchers were able to conduct their research. Methods needed to be adapted, and some projects shifted focus when researchers could no longer go to a physical store and interview customers.

“In some cases, we had to adjust and highlight new relevant things, such as how pandemic restrictions affected physical stores. Rapid adjustments allowed us to capture some important data on that. However, there were probably many in the public who thought that the pandemic would be an opportunity for society and consumers to rethink and change our attitude towards consumption. But we are probably not there yet, at least not today,” says Carys Egan-Wyer.

“Much light was also shed on the global distribution chain, and it has remained in focus with all the geopolitical unrest in the world. The tones about globalisation and retail have changed. They were more positive ten years ago,” Carys Egan-Wyer concludes.

The Future of Consumption is published with financial support from the Hakon Swenson Foundation and the libraries at Lund University. It’s free for all to download.

The Future of Consumption – download the book via

Retail as Unusual: Retailing in a time of extreme uncertainty – access the report via the Lund University Research Portal

Five trends in retail research

From multichannel to omnichannel. To ensure that the customer receives a seamless and consistent shopping experience, regardless of whether the customer, for example, switches between shopping in a company's physical store, through the website, or the company's app.

From a focus on green environmental issues in retail to social and ecological sustainability, and in some cases, anti-consumption.

From digitalisation in innovation and technology to AI, the metaverse, and data analysis.

Logistics and returns have shifted from a focus on efficiently handling returns to the customer experience regarding delivery, i.e., how companies communicate various transport options to the customer.

Both the pandemic and geopolitical unrest have allowed more space for mental and physical well-being in consumption, but have also caused disruptions in the global distribution chain.

Two women looking into the camera. Photo.


Carys Egan-Wyer
Senior Lecturer in Marketing
Lund University School of Economics and Management

+4646-222 47 75
carys [dot] egan-wyer [at] fek [dot] lu [dot] se (carys[dot]egan-wyer[at]fek[dot]lu[dot]se)

Profile in Lund University's Research Portal

Emma Samsioe
Associate Senior Lecturer in Service Management
Faculty of Social Sciences, Lund University

+4642-35 66 67
emma [dot] samsioe [at] ses [dot] lu [dot] se (emma[dot]samsioe[at]ses[dot]lu[dot]se)

Profile in Lund University's Research Portal

About the Centre for Retail Research

An interdisciplinary research environment focused on retail, established in 2014. The centre brings together researchers and professionals in areas such as logistics, distribution, marketing, statistics, and tourism. Workshops and research seminars are interspersed with guest lectures. An important part is that retail professionals give guest lectures in several programs at Lund University.

In November 2023, the Centre for Retail Research celebrated its tenth year. In 2024, the centre's researchers will organise The Nordic Retail and Wholesale Conference in Helsingborg.

The centre's website –