The financial press has written the obituary for brick and mortar retail. Macy’s and Nordstrom are gone along with many others. These failures are blamed on Amazon and other on-line sellers.
Bookstores were the first to face this issue with early Amazon that only sold books and Barnes & Noble. I had several bookstore clients. I also had tea house clients who were being hurt by all the coffee shops opening around them.
I had no trouble showing brick and mortar clients how to cope with the changing market place. They have enormous advantages over online stores. Those that followed my advice did well. The rest closed. Mostly for the reason most businesses close: the owners were too old, too bored and unwilling to make all the necessary changes.
For bookstores the need was to be more appealing to local customers than online could ever be. Carry more locally relevant books and magazines. Have live performances to bring people together with coffee and rolls. Carry a good selection of local authors and used local books. Focus on warmth and staff. Have book clubs. Have high demand objects in front of the store like newspapers and relevant magazines and maps. Create a service that will get on-order-books the next day. Have cards and magazines for local shut-ins and disabled. Etc. You get the point. Become an important local institution.
Tea houses were faced with the problem that new customers could never figure out the absurd pricing system. Constant tastings. Simplified pricing. Demos everyday. Tea pairings with relevant food. Photos of tea history and video too.
Retailers have great advantages over online stores. Macy’s has done nothing that is relevant to good marketing. Brick and mortar owners need to go to Tokyo and look at the stores there. Japan is the center of the greatest retail imagination on the planet.
The first floor of every department store has everything on wheels and the first floor changes completely every month. Large tv screens are everywhere in clothing fashion stores and nearly everywhere in other retail stores. One of my favorite fashion stores has rotating mannequins in outside windows on the facade on every floor and a similar display in the entrance area. Another fashion store has an 11 story mural inside that relates to the sales staff and the way they dress.
Samples are abundant in every store that can have samples like Costco, except more extensively. Classes and demos are going on everywhere and are open to passersby.
Brick and mortar retailers have great advantages but they must change and be lively. They also need to copy the online stores and have first rate efficient warehousing and inventory systems. Walmart is going to do alright, so is Costco.