The 2021 Revolution at The Town Square

Wow… the world is spinning at record-breaking speed right now!

Trump lost by a hair in a set of key States and Biden won by a hair in a set of key States.

There are sets of folks from coast-to-coast contending that America will never be the same… some from a positive perspective using terms like “revolution,” and some from a negative perspective using terms like “revolution.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases hit a global record high yesterday here in the U.S., the first of the vaccines will likely be rolling out on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day later this week.

According to the national news, a large group of Californians are relocating down here to Georgia just in time to vote in the Senatorial run-off elections.

There are some that are convinced that the vast majority of retailers in America will be closing down for good and every one will stay safe in their homes and shop online with contact-free delivery to their front doors.

I remember taking a sociology course back in my college days — a time when there was no such thing as the Internet — and the professor talking about how humans behave after refraining from a set of common, everyday behavior patterns. How humans engage in what she termed “binge behavior sets” to bring back a sense of balance.

In the last last blog, I spoke about a re-shifting that is occurring right before our eyes. A re-shifting from a global and national perspective to one of locality fuel in a large part, by the Millennials buying their first-time homes and sinking down roots.

What we saw take place back on the November 3rd Election Day is really not that unique.

Candidates and political parties that outright hate one another and scream that one party is stealing an election is not unique to America nor unique to the current year. The news media yelling that it knows what really took place is older than the printing press. Folks marching on the streets to support both the winners and the losers goes back to the “Days of Rome.”

Over the course of about 10-days leading into Election Day, I put together a joint venture survey of business leadership with a set of neighboring counties down here in Georgia.

The survey explored leadership perspectives related to what had taken place during the Pandemic and what would evolve into the next year — 2021.

More than 150 business leaders and owners voiced three key evolutions in the next year…

(1) A refocus from the national perspective to a more local perspective

(2) More interaction with local political and community leaders

(3) A shift from national brands and chains to local businesses and new start-ups

Millennials made up about a third of the participants… remember… the leading-edge of Millennials will turn 42 years old in 2021.

The Millennials not only voiced the same three plan-of-actions in 2021, but voiced them even stronger.

Yesterday, I drove out to a suburb of Atlanta that sits right on the fringe of where suburbia ends and small town America begins. The town I visited serves as the county seat and the county posts a population just shy of 100,000.

The county is also one of the growing counties fueled by Millennials moving in from what Atlantans refer to as the ITP — Inside the Perimeter — neighborhoods… neighborhoods that are posting a median home price of over $500K currently.

When I first arrived to the town, I stopped by a chain grocery store — Publix — to pick up a couple of small household items. I did not think much at first, but I was able to park close to the store itself and there was a good share of parking spaces free for parking.

I was able to get in and out quickly.

When I got to the center of the the small town, I noticed that there was a mom & pop, independent grocery store in which the parking lot was jam-pack filled with parked cars and cars attempting to find a space.

Readers know that I did not just drive by… and readers know that I did not just stay quiet and to-myself.

I found a place to park my SUV and went into the mom & pop store … which, by the way, had been restored to its 1940s look and feel inside.

I was taken back by the number of the Millennials doing their weekly grocery shopping inside.

When I asked them why they were going to this grocery store and not the Publix down the street, they rallied back that the mom & pop store was their neighbor and supporting the local retailer was something they planned to do more of in the future.

I am not putting words in their mouths… those are the words that not just one person used, but I heard from the more than dozen and a half folks I engaged in conversation.

Next I visited a local “antiques warehouse of individual booths” and encountered a full parking lot there too.

A lot of families there too and also a set of older, Baby Boomers and GenXers.

When I asked those strolling through the various booths what was it that attracted them to shop here vs. going about another 5 miles to a Target, they laughed and quickly replied that what they found in a place like this was “way more meaningful” than purchasing something from a “chain store.”

For the doubting among you thinking about the record-breaking sales at chains like Target, Home Depot and Walmart and digital giants like Amazon, I quickly channel focus over to similar giants shutting down their stores for good.

Businesses that operate using a model to grow their brand by becoming broader and more mainstream experience a corporate case of Alzheimer’s before then realize it. They have a crisis understanding just who they are and what they have become.

Where will this all head in 2021? What are the Trends likely to evolve?

#1 — Local and independent will become the spring-board of consumer engagement. While we may see more of the large brands file Chapter 11, we will also see some of the larger brands begin to “localize.” If you think I am out-of-mind citing it, I encourage you to Google the Amazon chain of actual grocery stores and read more about how they operate and the products they carry.

#2 — The small neighborhood school houses will re-appear. While some will be part of actual school districts as well as “chain” learning centers, more will be created out of grass-roots efforts. This trend will affect more than just elementary-level classrooms. Just as colleges are starting to let go of SAT Test scores for enrollment, more alternatives to the branded colleges will appear.

#3 — Town Squares will become the new hang-outs. This surfaced sort-of in the urban ‘hoods and there have been attempts to re-create town squares in the planned, high-end priced housing developments, but what is happening before us is significantly different. Anchors like Starbucks and Anthropologie are out and new independents are in. While COVID-19 restrictions fostered dining out on sidewalks, the rollouts of vaccines will not take the dining entirely back inside again.

#4 — Co-working space will re-emerge. It might not be in actual facilities labeled as co-working centers, but gathering places where work-from-home and new entrepreneurs and liberated free-lancers will gather together and co-work. Local libraries might just become one of the new, hip and locally-rooted gathering spots. One of the current architecture publications I receive showcases a new library that is function just like that in Long Beach.

#5 — Community “newspapers” will re-emerge. I put “newspapers” in quotes because the medium of delivery may also include digital and video, but the character of the community and the locality of the content and authorship will be local. If you don’t think that there are already talks in the halls of social media giants like Facebook about how they evolve as Washington might dictate, you are not as connected as you might think.

The world is spinning at record-breaking speed right now and maybe more so than at any other time in past 25–30 years.

If you think you have it all figured out in terms of just where we are headed… my strong suggestion is to get out and beyond the walls of comfort and go take a drive. Actively listen and observe. Talk with people.

The last thing I will share is that I receive a lot of Emails from LinkedIn about firms and job postings. Nearly all of the postings are from “established” business ventures and nearly all of the postings are very conventional in the descriptions of the job openings and the who they seek to fill the openings.

In the Chamber of Commerce survey that I referenced in the beginning of this blog post, the #1 outcome from the past 9 months that business leadership cited was that the Pandemic caused them to re-evaluate their business operations and staffing.

If conventional models of operations and staffing is what you have now going into 2021, you might just postpone your firms recovery to pre-Pandemic levels… and COVID-19 will not be the cause of the delay!

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.