From Clicks to Bricks – Online Retailers Embrace Physical Locations

Physical retail isn’t dying, but retail as we know it is shifting beneath our feet. While it’s true that some retailers are closing locations due to the “Retail Apocalypse”, many online-only retailers are moving into their first physical store locations. These brands are capitalizing on the recent closures of some traditional retailers, creating new opportunities to expand and improve their businesses.

Despite news reports that major retailers such as Toys “R” Us, Sports Authority, and Sears have filed for bankruptcy and shuttered stores nationwide, retail continues to flourish.  As a matter of fact, the National Retail Federation reports that for every store that closed in 2018 in the U.S. another 2.7 stores opened.  Shifts in the industry have created a greater opportunity for online-only retailers to move into their first physical locations. Simultaneously, established brick-and-mortar retailers are keeping relevant by collaborating with digital brands to increase traffic and reshape the retail experience.

For example, national retailer Kohl’s is demonstrating this innovative approach flawlessly by introducing “Curated by Kohl’s”. In 2020, Kohl’s will partner with Facebook on brand curation, identifying and engaging with brands that have built a strong online presence and allowing them the opportunity to reap the benefits of the retail experience. Customers, too, will benefit as they discover emerging brands when shopping.

Mattress retailer Casper is yet another online brand that has embraced the brick-and-mortar environment. It wisely capitalized on the announcement that Mattress Firm, one of its major competitors, was filing for bankruptcy and closing more than 500 stores. Taking advantage of an opportunity to reach even more customers, Casper launched its first retail store in New York City and is planning to open more than 200 locations in the next three years.

For retailers to be successful, in-person experiences must be so engaging and memorable that they effectively compete with the convenience of online shopping. Casper does this by offering pop-up shops where customers can test its products by taking a nap for $25 a session. Casper’s efforts demonstrate how next-generation retailers are leaning into immersive, in-person shopping experiences.

Warby Parker, which sells prescription glasses and sunglasses, is another online brand that continues to thrive since opening its brick-and-mortar stores. Customer demand to try on glasses before making a purchase drove the retailer to invest in physical shops. These shops have given Warby Parker even greater exposure and the opportunity to improve their business as demand for their products has increased.

Retail is undergoing a transformative period in its long history, and the future looks bright as more online retailers move into brick-and-mortar stores. Retail centers that embrace online brands as tenants can feel optimistic that they will benefit from increased foot traffic and a fresh look.

What online retailers are you seeing move into brick-and-mortar stores? Do you consider this a passing fad or a long-term trend?

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