January 8, 2019
We’ve all seen the headlines: “Brick-and-Mortar stores are rapidly declining.” However, there’s a recently growing movement that says, on the contrary, they are actually doing just fine.
Just take a look at the numbers. For real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, vacancy rates are at the lowest the company has seen in 15 years. On a national scale, the retail vacancy rate has remained at a steady 4.5% for the past four quarters.
The kinds of stores that seem to be struggling are those unwilling or unable to adjust to meet demands of the modern-day shopper. Today, it’s all about being able to create an omni-channel experience that marries the online shop with the in-store, with a focus on making the latter an impactful, interactive, and multi-sensory experience.
Here are just some examples of those within the retail sector who have been able to do it right.
Take a look at Indochino, a company specializing in tailor-made suits for less. For customers hesitant to make the purchase online, they are able to book an appointment at one of Indochino’s physical showrooms to have their measurements taken, see fabric options, and receive personalized and expert advice on styling. While friends are waiting for all this to take place, comfortable couches and foosball tables are readily available for their use.
Creating this omni-channel, customer-oriented experience within the physical store that continues from the online platform is the special touch that has driven Indochino’s business forward.
Another type of retail service that is often overlooked are local farmers’ markets. The amount of farmers’ markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory has risen by 7.07% since 2013. These outlets continue to rise in popularity not just because consumers enjoy the direct access to having locally grown and organic produce, but also because of the personal relationship they develop with the local farmer they are buying from.
Other local vendor types are also benefitting from the local market – soap-making, aroma therapy, hand-made pottery, and other homemade goods grace the stage. Sure, their customers could buy some goods for slightly cheaper on a larger e-commerce site or from a big home goods chain, but research from Yodle shows that 44% of modern shoppers prefer purchasing from local businesses for the personalized service.
On the other end of the spectrum in the beauty industry, Ulta has been making large strides within the past few years with the multiple interactive opportunities they create for in-store visitors. In-store salons provide customers with grooming services such as haircuts and facials. They’ve now moved their “Benefit Brow Bar,” an area for eyebrow shaping, up to the front in some stores so that shoppers will see the service immediately upon walking in. Customers can sample everything from high end brands to more available drugstore varieties. Customers are encouraged to test plugged-in electronics such as hair dryers. All of these collective experiences have resulted in high repeat foot traffic, helping to pave the way for the brand to become one of the top cosmetic brands in the country.
So, while certain brands that once seemed like staples in the retail industry have begun to fade in their brick-and-mortar presence, the businesses able to adapt to changing demand and create in-person experiences that keep customers coming back, will win in the end.