Brick-and-mortar retail is dead. Long live brick and mortar. The challenge in front of physical stores is to build an environment where customers can interact with the product while making purchases wherever and whenever they choose. It’s a complex task that requires significant investments in marketing and data analytics, but the alternative is watching Amazon.com and other pure-play digital retailers, as well as consumer goods companies increasing their direct-to-consumer approach, continue to take more market share.
The cold, hard brick-and-mortar retail statistics
By any measure, brick-and-mortar retailing is in trouble. While in-store retail sales rose 4.7 percent in 2017, according to the US Census Bureau, traditional retail sales have averaged 2.5 percent annual growth since 2014—pacing US gross domestic product—while electronic and mail-order sales have grown at a 13 percent rate.
In that same time frame, Amazon’s sales have increased by 100 percent, rocketed along by its Amazon Prime program and CEO Jeff Bezos’s tireless marauding into categories like pet supplies, groceries, specialty apparel, footwear and even private-label clothing. There is talk about wading into the automotive parts business, as well as prescription drugs. There’s no reason to believe this trend will slow: According to one recent survey, 52 percent of US shoppers who bought apparel online in the last six months shopped at Amazon, drawn by free shipping, generous return policies and mobile apps.