Disruption is the word of the day as consumers have abandoned traditional brick and mortar stores for the ease and convenience of shopping online. Many of our favorite retailers, ones that we grew up with – large and small, national and local – have closed over the last few years including long time favorites such as Borders and Sports Authority. Others such as Macy’s, Sears, and JC Penney are downsizing.
While this trend will continue, we have seen the emergence of a countervailing trend with the emergence of “clicks to bricks” retail. For those of us involved in creating brick and mortar stores, this may be indeed good news as online retailers step out of their virtual platforms to build new stores in cities and neighborhoods across the US. At the forefront of this movement are successful online retailers such as Warby Parker, Bonobos, and Birchbox who have capitalized on their online presence to create profitable and popular stores as a pathway to greater customer engagement and growth. And of course, there is the online behemoth Amazon who, with 10 bookstores either built or underway and other retail projects planned, is really in a class by itself.
What is happening? Why after the imminent death and demise of brick and mortar stores at the hands of online retailers are we seeing new retail brands starting to build stores? One reason is that these online retailers know that for all of the convenience of online shopping, a majority of consumers still prefer the in-store shopping experience. They want to see the merchandise, touch it, try it on and that can only be done in a brick and mortar store. They also know that customers like the convenience of shopping online and picking up their merchandise the same day at a nearby location or, when the purchase does not work out, returning the merchandise to a nearby store. And once the customer is in the store, there is always the opportunity of making another sale.