Retail : bricks or clicks

Retail Change

Are we destined for retail bricks or clicks (online retail)? It is remarkable how often parts of the media predicts the end of retail from physical shops. Fortunately some like Speciality Food Magazine recognise that retail isn’t dying it is simply changing.  We are not saying change isn’t painful, we are just saying it is not necessarily terminal.

We (Thomas Jardine & Co) ran small grocery stores when the supermarkets started their huge expansion into out of town sites.  Everybody predicted the end of the small grocery store. So, we changed to the new ‘convenience’ store format.  We thrived and now everybody is starting to question the future of the big four supermarket chains in the UK.

Littlewoods used to be one of the kings of catalogue shopping at home.  Then we all got used to department stores and shopping trips to the high street and the shopping mall.  The use of catalogues waned.  Nobody wanted to shop at home when they could visit the High Street.  Now we’re back to shopping at home via Amazon so who needs the high street?  Well Amazon do for a start. They have just opened their first 4* department store outside the USA here in the UK.

Anyone remember the Walton’s?  They had a hyper local store catering for all the residents needs.  everything from local produce to a collection point for international goods ordered via the shop keeper.  This was in the years of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

We could go on , but hopefully you get the point. Retail is always changing.  The trick is to keep up with what the consumer wants and needs.

Maintain Traditional Retail Values

There are so many new opportunities!!  Look at what American Express say: It is complicated, and there’s no one-size fits all retail strategy to employ. The customer is the channel now, and merchants need a new game plan that considers all aspects of the shopping experience — including consumer demand for more sustainable products and services as well as for supporting brands that have a purpose  

Consumer values are changing and with them the levers that retailers are adopting (Online & Bricks)  to keep them are evolving, take a look at the table below.

Consumer ValuesConsumer Levers
Emotional Connection & ValuesStorytelling
Knowing what to expect (updated in real time on stock availability etc.)Real-Time Inventory Accuracy
Fun & Rewarding Experiences (rewards replacing discounts)Gamification & Rewards
Consistency Online and Offline (seamless service to customer between online and in store)Seamless Omnichannel Experiences

Fundamentally brands are no loner certain how to keep in touch with their consumers.  Consumers are no longer sure they need their brands.

Good retailers will always rise by fully understanding their consumers.  Good retailers are the conduit between consumers and brands(from the very small local brand to the global mega brands).  The future of retail is understanding consumer.

Retail : bricks or clicks?

The lockdown and COVID has definitely hurt physical retail stores.  50 shops a day closed in the first half of 2021 but 22 new shops opened a day in the same period (Retail Gazette).

It is undeniable that there has been a massive shake out of retailers based in physical shops.  The Institute of Place Management has been monitoring the shakeout of our high streets long before COVID and lockdown.  This is not new, many national brands had been and gone long before COVID (Littlewoods for example). Others are moving into retail bricks and mortar. Amazon are moving into retail bricks and mortar for a reason.

There is a growing movement back onto the retail brick road. Deloitte predict a new hybrid retailer who will

  • Focuses on Net Zero
  • Be digital by design but not online exclusive
  • Offer visitors to its stores experiences that are thoughtful not just gimmicky
  • Keep up with a growing demand for re-localisation from consumers who now value their local economy
  • Focus on consumers need for health and wellbeing
  • Lead with a purpose  (not just corporate social responsibility more a way of being)

This is not just bricks and it is not just clicks. As the Retail Gazette highlighted there are three key drivers for consumer satisfaction:  Right people in store with the right knowledge;  Instore experience and Up to date tech.

The Retail based in bricks is rapidly merging with the online retailer.  This may be as simple as using Facebook, TikTok  or moving to a basic website or a fully integrated online sales platform.

Pivot to Clicks

During the lockdown many ‘traditional retailers’ successfully moved part of their businesses on line.  At our RETAIL WEBINAR on the 9th November we will bring together a group of online experts and retailers to discuss how and if this is possible for other retailers.  We will also look at how to get the most of your physical stores.

We will leave the last word to Forbes:

There are many more changes that have occurred since the coronavirus COVID-19 hit us in March of 2020. The pandemic has made us all tolerant of the changes and many of us have adapted to the new way of living. Change can be good. It may bring innovative ways of dealing with some age-old problems. Change may unearth some old habits that must be replaced with new disciplines. Customers like innovation and will support changes. The new faces of competition will force everyone to look at their traditional ways of doing business and accept changes. Business will improve.

To book a place on the Cumbria LEP webinar Click here or contact us at  if you want to talk about your retail business.

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