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Axios' Kim Hart kicks off the discussion. Photo: Lawrence Jackson for Axios

Axios' Kim Hart hosted a conversation on the future of retail, discussing the innovation and security threats transforming the industry. She sat down with 25 topic-matter experts to dig into the trends shaping how we buy things and how these trends will impact consumers, businesses, and workers.

Why it mattered: Not only are we all consumers, but retail is also the largest single source of American jobs — meaning that changes in this industry impact the livelihoods of many.

Innovating retail

Online shopping disrupted the retail industry by giving consumers an almost frictionless experience — enabling them to get what they want, when they want it, at the price they want to pay for it. Coined "the Amazon Effect", this trend worried traditional retailers. The round-table discussed the technology and innovation that, they argue, is fueling a new, experiential version of brick-and-mortar, by giving consumers something that they can't get online.

National Retail Federation Vice President Paul Martino gives his perspective. Photo: Lawrence Jackson for Axios
  • "Price won't make the difference [for brick-and-mortar]. It will be the experience," said Samsung's John Godfrey, acknowledging that consumers can always find an equivalent, if not better, price online than in-store.
  • "In terms of the experience, we don’t see the death of retail. We see a transformation. With augmented reality for example, you’ll be able to put on goggles and see how furniture will look in your home, and how paint will look on your walls," said the National Retail Federation's Paul Martino.
  • "Retailers have to use technology to align their interests with customers’ interests, so they always want to come back," Martino later added.
Securing Retail

As technology and data enable innovation in the retail industry, they also make consumers increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. This round-table discussed how these threats have the potential to do more damage than most realize, and what can be done to prevent an extremely damaging event.

Diana Burley, Executive Director of GW's Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection, explains the security threats consumers face. Photo: Lawerence Jackson for Axios
  • The consumer-data relationship: "Consumers have a weird paradoxical sense about data ... They’re confused by it and worried about it, but they don’t seem to be acting on these fears ... Data spills haven’t actually affected the way people are using the internet and e-commerce," said the Pew Research's Center Lee Rainie.
  • What will change the relationship: "We don’t want a catastrophic event that will harm all these consumers, but until we have that type of event — when harm is done to people en masse — it’s going to be very hard to convince manufacturers and consumers that [protecting data] is a serious issue," said security researcher Diana Burley, who is the Executive Director of GW's Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection.
Senior Policy Advisor Anna Hevia explains the benefits of consumer education. Photo: Lawrence Jackson for Axios

What's next:

  • "The future of cybersecurity is going to fall on businesses. Consumers aren’t going to blame themselves [for data breaches]," said the Hudson Institute's Arthur Herman.
  • "I think one of the coolest tech-neutral things is consumer education so folks know what they’re getting into ... We shouldn’t have to set up this false dichotomy of 'participate and lose all your data' or 'don’t participate at all and keep your data,' said Anna Hevia, the Senior Policy Advisor for Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA).
Consumers have many retail choices, our guests had many topping choices. Photo: Lawrence Jackson for Axios

Go deeper:

The big picture: Tech wants to make running errands easier

Chinese retail is winning the future

Sears set to close 78 stores this year

Amazon's Prime Day sales may have exceeded $4 billion

China's AI-powered corner store goes global

Go deeper

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.