Chris Bush, Tesco

This industry has a habit of inventing words that mean a lot to all of us, and absolutely nothing to the real world. Hard-lines, dead stock, point of sale, ranging - we even have “gondola ends.”

Now there’s a new piece of jargon and it has become universal: multichannel.

“It may not be the most exciting word ever written, but multichannel could be the biggest retail revolution the world has ever seen”

Chris Bush, MD, Tesco UK

As I’ve been guest editing The Grocer this week, the word kept coming up: from the impact of online retailing on manufacturers, to the potential sale of onlinepoundstore to our own success as online supermarket of the year! But what does ‘multichannel’ mean in reality? And most importantly, what does it mean to customers?

No-one sums it up better than my 16-year-old daughter. A true digital native, her smartphone is how she runs her life, for communications, socialising and, of course, for most of her shopping. And it comes a close second to oxygen in importance, best exemplified by the misery that ensues when she is unable to gain wi-fi access!

So just imagine how she’ll be shopping in 10 years. Think how different it will be to the way we shop now. There won’t be a question of choosing between in-store and online. The lines between the two will be completely blurred, invisible even.

That’s incredible to consider - and it’s driving the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career: a transformation of our industry by a new, empowered generation of consumers who want to buy whatever they need, wherever they are, at any time of day - on the phone, in a store or on a tablet.

This isn’t one of those trends that comes along and then fades away. This is the future - and it’s posing questions for everyone in our industry as we see new challengers driving a rise in competition.

It’s clear many businesses are still resisting this change, still weighing up the costs, but the costs of not offering it may be far greater tomorrow. Like gravity, this is a natural force, driven by customer expectation and demand. And as ever, when suppliers and retailers find ways to respond together, the opportunities are significant and exciting.