Last week saw Monocle editor-in-chief and CEO of Winkreative, Tyler Brûlé, give his ten pointers for 2012 in a thought-filled evening at Midori House, the company’s HQ in London. Here’s what Brûlé, a seasoned journalist, proven forecaster and consummate traveller, expects from the year ahead.
The next real battle in retail will be convenience – expect to see the convenience stores that have already conquered other parts of the world now fight over Japan. 2012 will also see the return of radio – a slightly biased prediction, as Brûlé was first to admit, as Monocle24 has just launched this autumn. There is no global media player in Asia at the moment – as with Al Jazeera’s rise, next year should also see Korea or Japan offer a media tiger to change the news landscape.
Luxury companies may well turn to Hungary in 2012, as Brand Hungary gains weight. Vienna Design Week’s inaugural edition was impressive, and showed more than anything how strong the apprenticeship still is in the education and social structure of some parts of the world – standing alongside university education rather than being a poor substitute for it. Turkey is a buzz-country too: will Istanbul challenge Dubai with its new airport? Turkey also plays an interesting role diplomatically, and its political choices are worth keeping up with.
The return of manufacturing in the US and EU is another development to watch out for – Britain is beginning to realise the value of its homegrown talent, while Oscar de la Renta now manufactures in Brooklyn. Liberty, John Lewis and many other proud British brands are leading the way in this. Brûlé also heralded “a solid base”, the return of sustainable maintenance to architecture, and pleaded for “a bit of patina please”. Solutions that deliver high shine short-term just won’t cut it any more, and happily, he reported, “we are starting to hear that there is an investment in doing things properly, and building things to last”.
Next, a subject that any regular reader will know is close to Monocle’s heart: charm is apparently a big theme in the February issue. “You can’t buy charm overnight, but there are things you can do to subtly engineer it,” Brûlé insisted, calling for exceptional, charming customer service from people who, crucially, enjoy what they do.
People have returned to Japan. High-end hotels are reporting 100% occupancy at the moment, and one excellent reason to return is Yoyogi Village – an entire, integrated retail community in Tokyo. Another interesting shopping village in Japan, set up by Japan’s equivalent of Blockbuster, Tsutaya Books, opened in early December and offers three interconnected pavilions, including Magazine Avenue – an oak pathway which stocks the best magazines in the world, as well as vintage copies of classics such as Vogue. The customer vision for the village is 35+, as that’s where the money is in Japan. “In retail, over the past decade, this is the best thing I’ve seen,” said Brûlé. High praise indeed.
And one last thing to emerge from the night’s conversations with leaders of political analysis, travel development, and architecture. For people who are used to bespoke, to last-minute changes, to reams and reams of options, to whatever they want to buy – the ultimate luxury, just maybe, is “the luxury of no choice”.