As more and more retailers report strong growth online while their brick & mortar sales wane, it’s easy to conclude that physical retail is going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. In fact, plenty of pundits bang that particular drum every day.
But let’s not lose perspective.
Actual stores still account for about 94% of all retail sales. While this will continue to shrink, revenues from physical locations will garner the majority share for most retail categories for many years to come. Lest we forget, actual stores provide tangible customer value that is all but impossible to duplicate digitally. And plenty of research supports the notion that most consumers still prefer to shop in a physical store including…wait for it…Millennials. It shouldn’t surprise us that many of the fastest growing, most successful retail brands are investing in stores, not closing them.
Yet, there is plenty of fault in our stores.
Too many stores are drowning in a sea of sameness–in product, presentation and experience.
Too many stores still operate as independent entities, rather than an integral piece of a one brand, many channels customer strategy.
Too many stores remain laden with friction throughout the shopping experience.
Too many stores take a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than striving to treat different customers differently.
Too many stores are seen as liabilities to be optimized, leaving them as boring warehouses of only the best-selling, most average product.
Yes, there will be fewer stores in the future. Yes, the vast majority of stores will be smaller. Yes, it’s hard to paint any sort of growth scenario for all but a handful of retailers. But the reflexive answer cannot be to throw up our hands and automatically decide to disinvest in physical retail.
Brick & mortar retail is different, but not dead.
When we adopt an attitude that our stores are problems to be fixed–or eliminated–rather than assets to be leveraged, our fate is already sealed.