Online vs. Storefront? (Sales series – Part 3)

Online vs. Storefront? (Sales series – Part 3)

I have been having an ongoing conversation with colleagues, family and friends (and perhaps myself) about the state of the retail industry recently.

Online shopping is becoming faster and more accessible. Most of the products we need are now available online and the competitive environment of online shopping ensures that, in general, costs are lower.

The younger generation is growing increasingly more comfortable with obtaining their products online – to the point where shopping in stores seems to be an “inconvenience” for that audience.

Yet everywhere I look, new physical stores (bricks and mortar) are popping up. An enormous new outlet mall was developed off Kenaston Boulevard in Winnipeg – almost in the face of the changing retail environment. In December 2017, Roots announced that it was doubling down on its retail presence, planning to double its number of physical stores.

It seems inevitable, perhaps only to me, that the retail process will change and that the influence of online retail will continue to grow exponentially. Which begs the question, why the continued commitment to storefronts? What are retailers seeing that we don’t know about?

I can’t imagine that retail stores will exist in their present form ten years from now? But perhaps there is a new model that will be developed – where physical stores become sources of product information and consultation – rather than warehousers of product?

Or as predicted (almost ten years ago) perhaps malls will finally seek to become experiential in nature – providing more than just the buying experience.

There is an argument, made here a few months ago, that part of shopping is not the actual buying, but the shopping “process”. If that is true, then there is still a place for storefront retail – but in what form?