Retail is Dead

Over the last couple of years, there have been many articles written about how conventional retail is dead.  Some journalists claim it’s only a matter of time before bricks and mortar stores become redundant.  Pundits will point to the recent closing of all Sears locations in Canada as proof that this is indeed happening.

So retail is dead!  And everyone may as well start closing their stores.

But there’s a problem… this simply isn’t the case.  What we’re witnessing is not the death of bricks and mortar retailing - but rather a “retail reinvention” where those who survive and prosper are those stores who give consumers a compelling reason to shop there.  It’s no longer about offering great customer service - it’s now about the customer experience.  Retailers that can create this compelling reason will continue to grow and thrive, regardless of competition from Amazon and other online retailers.  And retailers unwilling - or unable - to adapt will eventually be forced to close.

In January, we often get feedback from retailers about the past year.  Despite a challenging retail environment, several of the retailers I spoke with did manage to grow their sales.  That is no easy feat!

One of our longtime customers is F.G. Bradley’s, a home entertainment retailer with four stores around Toronto - three locations in shopping malls and one location in a stand alone building in Etobicoke.  F.G. Bradley’s sells a variety of products like pool tables, darts, air hockey, and of course games and puzzles.  Brad MacIntosh and his staff have long understood the importance of creating a compelling reason for customers to shop in their stores.

Looking for ideas?  Here is just one idea from the folks at F.G. Bradley’s.  Last week, F.G. Bradley’s approached us with a promotional idea, where we sent each store two 1,000 piece puzzles.  The staff at each location will assemble one puzzle and then remove one piece (so that there is one missing puzzle piece).  That missing piece is placed in a jar along with all the puzzle pieces from the other puzzle we sent.  Every customer who purchases a puzzle during the month of February will get an opportunity to reach into that jar and select one puzzle piece, and attempt to place the piece into the missing spot.  If the piece fits, they win a prize package.  That’s just one of many compelling reasons to visit F.G. Bradley’s.

While final numbers for 2017 have yet to be published, online sales are expected to account for 7.2% of all retail sales in Canada (source: Statista).  Comparably in the United States, online sales accounted for approximately 9% of all retail sales last year (source: Statista).  This means the majority of retail sales still occur within the four walls of a bricks and mortar store.  Of course, online sales are growing at a torrid pace.  And both Canada and the United States are behind some other countries (online sales account for 19.1% of all retail sales in the UK).  Regardless, there will always be a need for physical stores.

So yes… retail is tough… and it’s only getting tougher.  Gone are the days where retailers could simply hang a sign outside a storefront and count on shoppers to come.  Retailers just need to be more creative!  Do you have any good ideas on how make your store a compelling place to shop?  Feel free to share your ideas in our comment section or on our Facebook post.