Before We Head into Summer Fridays and Flipflops, A Word on Brick and Mortar — And Reports of its Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

In fact, retail stores may be experiencing a revival, not a day of reckoning.

 Today’s times are producing countless stories about the demise of brick and mortar retailers, store and chain store closings, photos of empty store fronts in Manhattan and sad tales of bankruptcy filings. All this media coverage might lead one to think we are in the midst of a retail store apocalypse. Yet, before we lament the end of the era of hands-on purchasing, we can be comforted by real facts.

Smart brick and mortar retailers are thriving because they are embracing new ways to engage consumers and influencers, especially with best-in-class technology. They are finding ways to heighten the experiential aspect of purchasing goods and services, are developing personalized shopping experiences for each consumer and, in some cases, are not even selling merchandise.

Bright pink signage in the heart of Los Angeles is currently teasing the brick-and-mortar opening of a PrettyLittleThing store. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover the soon-to-be-store won’t be selling anything, unusual for any other fast-fashion brand. Instead, the eye-catching building will house an “influencer lounge,” a luxurious space where key influencers and celebrities can drop by, hang out, and do business with the UK-based company.

Nordstrom Local acts as a neighborhood hub enabling shoppers to access Nordstrom services like stylist consultations, curbside pick-up, order return, and fittings/alterations. Without having to stock a dedicated inventory, Nordstrom local becomes a unique shopping experience created by personalized services to meet any client’s needs. It also offers professional alterations, personal style consultations, effortless returns and exchanges, a nail bar, and local beer and wine (or juice for younger customers), all with the intention of enticing customers to shop in their physical stores. And the strategy has already seen strong  success. Nordstrom reported a 38 percent sales growth in its first-quarter profits.

Nordstrom’s new 24-hour Men’s Storein midtown Manhattan allows shoppers to make purchases, return items, and connect with sales associates 24-hours a day. This new store is an effort to make the retailer more accessible to its largest online audience – New York City. It offers that extra personal touch to entice in-store spending, this time in the form of valuable experiences such as the Levi’s Tailor Shop to design custom embroidery, Samuelson Custom Suit Visualizer, Eton Endless Aisle for additional options for dress shirts and ties, and a rotating line of Le Labo personalized fragrance labels in the grooming department, according to Retail & Restaurant.

Apple, Victoria’s Secret and Ultra Beautyoutranked other national chains and found success in the brick-and-mortar retailer world by investing in six necessary componentsto increase the physical shopping experience: intuitive, human, meaningful, immersive, accessible, and personalized. In short, shoppers will enjoy the shopping experience if it’s made simple and enjoyable.

Amazon Gois a physical retail space where there are no cashiers or checkouts, and where sensors and cameras monitor customers and bill them for purchases by communicating with an Amazon Go phone application.

REI’sretail shopping experience includes a climbing wall and educational classesfor a variety of outdoor experiences such as kayaking, wilderness survival, and hiking, to name a few. These attributes draw the consumer into the store  where they can then browse the store’s selection of products.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship storein Manhattan has an entire floor called The Wellery dedicated to wellness services like a salt therapy booth and body stretching.

Forbes recently published survey results that found only 56 percent of 4,000 consumers surveyed found shopping fun, lower than 77 percent who said they had fun at work. To raise that percentage, Forbes had five key takeawaysto make shopping more fun: make shopping interactive through games and events, make their shopping mean something by donating when consumers shop at your stores, beautify your store with natural lighting and colorful aisles, become a care-free sanctuary of relaxation, and regularly update and rejuvenate your store with new products and displays.

So before heading to the beach this Memorial Day Weekend, peruse the local papers to see what entertainment is available at your local outdoor mall, and if it’s going to rain, the retail world is your oyster.

Don’t forget the sun tan lotion.