Will clicks override bricks?
As online shopping becomes more prevalent, brick-and-mortar's retail success will depend on portraying the act of shopping as an experience rather than a chore or errand for shoppers. It will be survival of not only the fittest, but also of the wittiest.
From forward thinking retailers like Apple and Hollister, national brands abound everywhere a shopper turns -- in shopping malls, on Main Street and all over the Internet. The survivors will be the retailers that become a destination and provide shoppers with an exciting and memorable social experience.
That's where entertainment comes into play. Retail stores that provide environments where the shopper is also engaged and wooed will survive. The act of physically shopping can no longer be boring if bricks are competing with clicks.
Many progressive retailers are already immersing their brands in providing interactive and exciting shopping experiences called "destination locations." The phenomenon of this successful business model can be seen in the high density shopping areas like Times Square, SoHo, the Meatpacking District and Fifth Avenue, as well as large regional malls like Garden State Plaza and the Mall of America. Whether it's the giant Ferris wheel inside Manhattan's Toys 'R Us or the Rem Koolhaas-designed flagship Prada store on Broadway, retailers at all ends of the market are providing a unique experience you can't get behind a computer screen.
Retailers have less than 60 seconds to catch customers' attention and keep them engaged. To achieve this objective, the store must be the attraction, driving a revival of the idea of the big flagship Main Street store. A flagship store must be powerful enough and strategically located to create a unique experience.
Retailers need to consider various elements in choosing where to locate their flagship store. The flagship needs to drive traffic, create product awareness, provide an enhanced customer experience and increase sales. The idea behind creating a flagship store is to create a unique environment for customers that cannot be found anywhere else. The store is usually located in a major city where tourists flock.
While average store footprints are shrinking, there are more retailers positioning themselves around the innovators and trend setters, pushing up the value of the surrounding real estate. In these shopping districts, the building of these flagships can be such a huge impetus toward driving up the value of real estate.
Just because more people shop online, though, doesn't mean they'll stop shopping at stores completely. Indeed, for most retail sectors, a physical store can serve a fundamentally different function, giving consumers the ability to see, taste and touch the products in a way that is impossible online. The challenge for retailers in the future will be to figure out a way to play up the strengths of the bricks-and-mortar store while incorporating new technology into the experience.
— Adelaide Polsinelli is senior director of Eastern Consolidated in New York City. Contact her at