The retail industry has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Stores are no longer gathered in downtown neighborhoods and rather than attracting people to the marketplace, out-of-town shopping malls must offer shopping possibilities and a broad range of eateries, from budget-oriented fast food to upmarket restaurants, as well as movie theaters and fitness centers. More recently, the future of these malls has been threatened, as an increasing number of consumers find it more convenient to shop online.
What is the future for brick and mortar stores?
The death knell for actual physical stores, or ‘brick and mortar stores,’ has supposedly been sounded for many years now. Yet, as anyone who has stood in line during the holiday season will tell you, brick and mortar stores are still attracting their fair share of customers. One thing is for sure, however, the location of physical stores has changed since our grandparents’ time, and larger stores in out-of-town shopping malls continue to attract customers away from neighborhood stores and high street and downtown shopping blocks. The attraction of these malls is the convenience of having everything under one roof, additional facilities including movie theaters, diners, cafes, and even short-term daycare options are particularly tempting, especially for young families.
Pop-up stores are a modern phenomenon: short-term sales spaces that have become extremely popular in the US and Canada and parts of Europe and Australia. Also known as ‘flash retailing’, this is a clever way for new and old brands to build hype surrounding a new product or brand. If something seems cool enough, people will stand in line for hours to see what all the buzz is about. However, but this is extremely unlikely if the location is not cool. Like all brick and mortar stores, a pop-up store – one that is opened for a limited amount of time, ranging from a day to a month – need to be clearly visible from the street. It should look spontaneous, bright, and fun: like a party you really wish you were invited to. Newly gentrified, hip neighborhoods with a lot of casual traffic, coffee shops, and small independent stores make ideal locations for a trendy pop-up store.
E-commerce is a new addition to the dictionary, but the power of internet shopping has made it one of the fastest growing industries of our time. Location doesn’t matter to the founders of online retail firms, many of whom started their businesses out of back rooms or garages before becoming successful. Online stores must still rely on advertising, perhaps even more so than physical stores, which at least have passing trade to rely on. Without targeted advertising, an online store is completely hidden from sight. Online stores specializing in women’s clothing seem have success and generate interest through targeted online ads, discount codes for new customers and email and social media newsletters that keep them in the minds of new and returning customers.
‘Location, location, location’
There is a well-known phrase in marketing and real estate – location, location, location. And this continues to hold true even in today’s retail landscape – even in the case of online stores that don’t rely on physical spaces. Newcomers to the e-commerce game should not underestimate the overarching importance of well-located, visible and targeted advertising to attract potential customers who would not otherwise ‘stumble’ across their stores.
Photo credit: Johannes / Flickr