Traditional Brick and Mortar: Fighting the Online Battle

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For those in the commercial real estate sector it is no secret that the retail sector has been suffering in the past few years. Not only is the effect being felt on small independent businesses, but it is also being felt by large corporations that have brick and mortar locations. Most recently, Payless has announced their struggles with brick and mortar stores and that they will be closing 400 stores with the possibility of up to 1,000 stores. Other large corporations who have felt the strain on brick and mortar include Sears, Macy’s and Bebe.

One of the largest driving factors for the hurt that brick and mortar is feeling is the rise of ecommerce and the accessibility of online shopping. With online shopping increasingly raising its service level, with some providers getting certain goods to the consumer in less than 24 hours, for some products it has eliminated the need to go to a physical store at all.

The question is how do retailers sustain a brick and mortar presence in this type of environment. Some retailers, like Bebe, are choosing to ditch brick and mortar altogether and focus solely on growing their online presence.

It may be time to think of brick and mortar in a different sense other than just a vehicle where consumers can purchase goods. Some companies are taking the brick and mortar concept and utilizing it as extension of their online presence. By doing this they are making the physical retail location more of a destination and experience instead of just four walls where you can buy their product. Creating this experience or destination can also help to increase brand awareness and overall brand reputation.

One example of a company doing this is Nike. Nike has created unique retail destinations in most major cities and has catered to that city by doing so. Most recently, Nike opened its new Soho location in New York City and it is far from a simple shoe store. It includes basketball courts, soccer fields and running areas for in store testing of products. It also is separated by sport for unique trials and testing for that sports products. These services are things that you cannot provide online making the retail experience unique.

Other retailers are looking at ways to combine the physical experience with the online experience. While CVS has closed some physical stores in recent times, they also have unveiled a curbside pickup feature which allows you to order items from your computer or mobile device and then pick them up at the physical location without getting out of your car.

Utilizing a system like this helps to spread out their distribution footprint by leveraging their current physical stores as small warehouses that are closer to the consumer. As large online retailers like Amazon get closer to providing same day delivery and service, options like these can help physical retailers to compete on a convenience level that many consumers are attracted to.

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