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Is It Death for Brick-and-Mortar Stores?


Fohlio is an advanced retail solutions software. Empower teams to open stores faster and improve their operational workflow with specification, prototyping, estimating, and procuring tools.

In recent years, online shopping has overshadowed traditional brick-and-mortar stores. COVID-19 reshaped the way consumers behaved and gave the realization that customers can continue to shop without ever needing to leave their homes. As the digital age continues to redefine consumer behavior and preferences, a pressing question looms: Is it the death knell for brick and mortar stores? From shifting consumer habits to the impact of technological advancements, let's unravel the complex narrative that surrounds the fate of brick-and-mortar, aiming to dissect the present and speculate on the future of retail in the face of this digital revolution.

Before diving in, let's talk about the history of retail spaces

Brick and mortar stores can be traced back to ancient civilizations, marking a fascinating evolution from humble market stalls to the bustling retail landscapes we know today. The concept of a physical space for trade and commerce has roots in the agora of ancient Greece, where merchants gathered in a central marketplace to sell their goods. 

The advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries marked a pivotal moment, as urbanization and technological advancements enabled the creation of larger, purpose-built retail spaces. These early stores, often specializing in specific goods, became the precursors to the diverse brick and mortar store establishments that characterize modern retail.

Learn more: Beyond the Click: Why Brick and Mortar Stores Still Matter in the Age of Direct-to-Consumer Retailing

Over time, brick-and-mortar stores have adapted to societal changes, embracing innovations such as department stores in the 19th century and suburban shopping malls in the mid-20th century. The physical store has played a crucial role in shaping the retail experience, providing consumers with a tangible space to browse, interact, and make purchases. 

However, as we stand on the precipice of the post-COVID digital age, the very foundations of brick-and-mortar retail are being questioned, prompting a reevaluation of its historical significance and future trajectory.

Is it the end of brick and mortar stores?

Although traditional department stores may not attract as many buyers as they did in the past, given the convenience of online shopping from the comfort of one's home, there are still distinct advantages to a physical store over its virtual counterpart.

Let's look into it

Physical Brick and Mortar Stores:

  1. Tangibility and Sensory Experience: Physical stores offer a tangible and sensory shopping experience. Customers can touch, feel, and try products before making a purchase decision.
  2. Immediate Gratification: Shoppers can obtain products instantly without waiting for shipping, providing immediate gratification.
  3. Personal Interaction: In-store staff can provide personalized assistance, product recommendations, and answer customer queries, fostering a sense of customer service and community.
  4. Brand Presence: A physical storefront contributes to a strong local brand presence, reinforcing the connection between the brand and the community.
  1. Limited Accessibility: Physical stores have geographical limitations, making it challenging for customers who are not in proximity to visit.
  2. Operating Costs: Maintaining a physical space involves rent, utilities, and staffing costs, which can be higher than the operational costs of online-only businesses.
  3. Limited Hours: Physical stores generally operate during specific hours, limiting accessibility for customers with busy schedules or those who prefer shopping outside regular business hours.

Learn more: Tangible Shopping: Exploring Trends in Brick-and-Mortar Resurgence

Virtual Stores:

  1. Global Reach: Online stores have a global audience, breaking down geographical barriers and enabling businesses to reach customers around the world.
  2. Convenience: Virtual stores offer unparalleled convenience, allowing customers to shop 24/7 from the comfort of their homes or on the go.
  3. Cost Efficiency: Operating an online store can be more cost-efficient, with reduced overhead costs associated with physical spaces.
  4. Data Analytics: E-commerce platforms can leverage data analytics to understand customer behavior, preferences, and trends, facilitating targeted marketing and improved customer experiences.
  1. Lack of Tangibility: The inability to physically interact with products before purchase may be a drawback for some customers.
  2. Shipping Times and Costs: Delivery times and shipping costs can be factors that impact customer satisfaction, and unexpected delays may occur.
  3. Security Concerns: Online shopping comes with security concerns such as data breaches and the potential for online fraud.
  4. Customer Service Challenges: While online customer service exists, it may not replicate the in-person assistance provided by physical stores, leading to potential communication challenges.

Many businesses have adopted a hybrid approach to store planning, combining the strengths of both physical and virtual stores to create a seamless shopping experience.

In short, it is not the death of brick and mortar but a transformation of the physical store that continually adapts to consumer demands.

Learn more: Safeguard Your Profits: The Cost of Delayed Openings and Ways To Mitigate It

Redefining retail and adopting an omnichannel strategy

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently disclosed its 2023 forecast during the third annual State of Retail & the Consumer virtual conversation. The association anticipates a positive outlook for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers, projecting retail sales growth of 4 to 6% this year, reaching an impressive range between $5.13 trillion and $5.23 trillion.

This optimism follows the notable 7% annual growth in 2022 over 2021, where retail sales soared to $4.9 trillion. Although the projected growth for 2023 is slightly lower than the previous year, it surpasses the pre-pandemic average annual retail sales growth rate of 3.6%.

E-commerce is also poised for a remarkable year in 2023, with anticipated sales growth of 10 to 12%, reaching a range between $1.41 trillion and $1.43 trillion. Notably, the NRF highlights a shift in the role of e-commerce from a standalone sales phenomenon to an integral part of consumers' shopping experiences. Even with the convenience of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores remain pivotal, accounting for approximately 70% of total retail sales.

Consumers now seek a hybrid retail experience, as evidenced by Momentive's survey findings, where 56% of adults prefer both online and in-store shopping. Additionally, 88% emphasize the importance of businesses offering both in-store and online purchase options. Notably, 24% express a reduced likelihood of purchasing from a business that lacks a physical storefront, emphasizing the enduring significance of the brick-and-mortar retail platform in the evolving retail landscape.

Why taking an omnichannel approach matters for your retail expansion strategy

Those relying on a single retail platform risk missing out on substantial sales. With consumer preferences evolving, an omnichannel approach is crucial. Despite the emphasis on online platforms, 75% of purchases still take place in physical stores. (Which is why store planning is still as crucial as ever) Social media, websites, and apps play pivotal roles in researching and comparing retailers before the final decision, emphasizing the importance of a physical storefront.


Create consistency between your online store and brick-and-mortar store

Creating a seamless and consistent experience between your online store and physical store is essential for building a strong brand presence. To achieve this cohesion, it's crucial to strategically plan around your brand identity.

Start by developing a comprehensive brand guide that serves as the cornerstone for all your marketing initiatives and store planning. This guide encapsulates the essence of your brand and serves as a blueprint for your future campaigns. Notably, its impact is most pronounced in your online presence, including social media and your e-commerce platform.

From the brand guide, create an outline of specific brand standards tailored to your physical stores. These retail brand standards meticulously define the overall appearance of your brick-and-mortar establishments, encompassing everything from the layout to the specifications and finishes required to embody the distinctive look and feel of your brand. By aligning both your online and physical store elements with this unified brand identity, you can establish a cohesive and memorable customer experience across all touchpoints. This consistency not only reinforces brand recognition but also fosters trust and loyalty among your customer base.

Form a retail business plan + prototype stores with retail space planning software

Forming a retail business plan and prototyping stores using retail space planning software is a comprehensive approach that empowers retailers to navigate the complexities of the market strategically. The business plan (taking an omnichannel approach) serves as the blueprint for success, outlining objectives, financial strategies, and market analysis. Integrated with a robust retail platform like Fohlio, this plan takes on a practical dimension, allowing retailers to prototype stores virtually. This process involves templatizing various store types, estimating costs accurately, and ensuring a seamless transition from concept to execution. By combining the strategic foresight embedded in the business plan with the practical visualization offered by the space planning software, retailers can not only set clear goals and allocate resources effectively but also test and refine store layouts, ensuring that the final implementation aligns precisely with their business objectives and customer expectations.

However, the true power lies in seamlessly translating these plans into tangible, visually refined prototypes using cutting-edge retail space planning software like Fohlio. 

Learn more: Your Expansion Superpower, Part I: Project Modeling and Pre-Opening Prototypes

Crafting a Comprehensive Retail Business Plan:

  • Define Clear Objectives: Clearly outline short-term and long-term goals for the retail business.
  • Financial Strategies: Develop detailed financial plans, including budgeting and forecasting.
  • Market Analysis: Conduct a thorough analysis of the market, understanding customer needs, industry trends, and competitor strategies.

Utilizing Retail Space Planning Software:

  • Store Prototyping:
    • Templatize Store Types: Use the space planning software to create templates for various store layouts.
    • Accurate Cost Estimation: Leverage the software's capabilities for precise cost estimation, ensuring realistic financial planning.
    • Dynamic Visualization: Visualize store prototypes dynamically to get a realistic preview of the final implementation.

Integration of Business Plan and Space Planning Software:

  • Aligning Goals: Ensure that the prototypes developed through the space planning software align with the goals outlined in the business plan.
  • Iterative Refinement: Use the dynamic visualization capabilities to test and refine store layouts, ensuring optimal customer experience and operational efficiency.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Leverage insights gained from both the business plan and the space planning software to make informed, strategic decisions throughout the retail space development process.

Implementation and Execution:

  • Seamless Transition: Ensure a smooth transition from concept to execution by utilizing the refined prototypes as a guide for the actual store development.
     Resource Allocation: Allocate resources effectively based on the insights and estimates obtained from the integrated business plan and space planning software.

By intergrating these steps, retailers can build a retail space that not only aligns with their strategic objectives but also optimizes the customer experience and operational efficiency, setting the stage for sustained success in the dynamic retail landscape.

Retail business planning and store prototyping are essential as they serve as the compass guiding the direction of the business. It involves setting clear objectives, devising strategies, and allocating resources to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. Through meticulous financial planning, retailers can manage budgets, forecast effectively, and ensure financial stability. Market analysis embedded in the planning process provides a deep understanding of customer needs, competitive landscapes, and industry trends, enabling businesses to make informed decisions and stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, retail business planning is integral to product and service development, ensuring that the assortment aligns with market demand and reflects current consumer preferences. Overall, it forms the foundation for sustainable growth, effective resource management, and strategic decision-making in the dynamic and competitive retail landscape.

Brick-and-mortar stores have long been integral to human culture, and transform in tandem with cultural shifts and technological progress. The integration of technology in these retail spaces does not necessarily signify the demise of physical stores, but rather, reflects a dynamic adaptation to the changing demands and preferences of consumers. The enduring presence of brick-and-mortar establishments remains a testament to their resilience and capacity for reinvention in an ever-shifting retail landscape.






Fohlio is an advanced retail solutions software. Empower teams to open stores faster and improve their operational workflow with specification, prototyping, estimating, and procuring tools.

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Published Jan 9, 2024