While the pandemic may have increased the ease and convenience of online shopping, one thing’s for certain – nothing will ever replace the instant gratification that brick-and-mortar stores create. The thrill of sifting through racks and finding that perfect piece of clothing is what keeps customers returning time after time.
“Post-pandemic, the recovery was swift and significant, and even in a period of intense economic challenges, the relative performance has been strong,” said Ethan Chernofsky, SVP of Marketing at Placer.ai.
“Brick-and-mortar retail is entering a period where its wider value is more obvious than ever, and there’s a growing recognition that specific aspects just can’t be replaced by digital alternatives,” Chernofsky added.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce only accounted for 15.1% of total retail sales in the first quarter of 2023.
The retail real estate landscape also reflects this evidence. In 2022, there were five times more store openings than closures. There are also multiple direct-to-consumer companies that have ventured into brick and mortar by opening a physical store location.
A prime brick-and-mortar retail success story is Primark, who made their US debut in 2015 after being a fan-favorite among European countries. Now, the retailer plans to expand from 17 US stores to 60 by 2025. These stores will feature standout in-store experiences for consumers. In fact, primark’s website doesn’t even allow the capability to shop online either, instead allowing you to check online solely for in-store inventory.
Primark’s strategy reflects brick-and-mortar shopping’s long-standing significance to retail, offering a one-stop-shop for all things beauty, fashion, lifestyle, home decor and more. During one visit you can grab all of your needs for a beach getaway, a night out or a work event. Store associates are alway there to lend a helping hand, as well as self-checkout kiosks for an easy and seamless process.
This store-front focused initiative, paired with its affordability has brought significant success for the brand. As new stores open across the US, thousands of shoppers line up outside to experience their grand openings.
“When I look around our stores, I see people rediscovering the joy of shopping — not just acquiring new things, but the experiences that come with it. These are feelings and moments that some thought were lost during the pandemic, but as the crowds in our stores show, in-store shopping doesn’t seem to be going anywhere,” said Kevin Tulip, Primark U.S. President.
In-store experiences has been a relevant theme – and is a significant factor in customer’s shopping expectations today.
“The return to experiences has been a theme this year, and shopping is an experience. Personal service, something not easily replicated online, will remain important to customers. In-store preferences are more pronounced in categories like apparel and accessories, as fit, appearance, and feel are critical,” said Chip West, a retail and consumer behavior expert at Vericast.
Brick-and-mortar shopping goes beyond just convenience. It allows for a broader sense of community and creativity for consumers.
“They want to be entertained, to have a sense of discovery, and to have meaningful human interaction. They don’t want to go shopping just to buy things; they want to experience something they can’t get from shopping from home,” said.Renee Hartmann, cofounder of strategy consultancy CLA.
Today’s growing brands are creating experiences or offering something unique to consumers. With this, brings the blend of physical and digital elements. Some of the most successful stores contain digital factors that allow for an easy, seamless process while shopping in person.
“We expect the digital and physical retail experience to merge into a single, blended experience in which the user seamlessly and simultaneously interacts across the digital and real world,” added Hartmann.
At the end of the day, consumers are always going to value human connections and face-to-face experiences.
“Despite speculation that brick-and-mortar retail will die with the increase of online shopping and omnichannel retail, we expect brick-and-mortar stores to endure in the future. E-commerce can’t be beaten in terms of convenience, speed, and personalization, but it still lacks the community, entertainment, and the experiential element that consumers crave,” said Hartmann.