Afraid Conventional Retail Shopping is Doomed? Let’s Look at the Facts.
With the high-profile closures that have been announced in the last year, from Toys R Us to Guitar Center, it’s fair to wonder: Is conventional retail a dying industry? With big-box giants hitting the dust seemingly left and right, is there any hope for the little guy? Is the dream of opening your own shop a relic of a bygone age?
First off, calm down. The world is not ending just yet! Retail is not dying. Believe it or not, there are still people out there who want to buy things. Are you interested in selling them things? If you are, you could even get pretty good at it by taking a few lessons from the news.
You probably know who all the doom and gloom is centered on: Amazon. Discount by discount, Echo by Echo, the e-tail giant seems to be taking over the planet. They’re even beating Walmart at its own game, undercutting the big-box behemoth. They’re the largest, most dominant global presence that the retail industry has ever seen. What can an entrepreneur possibly learn from such a megalithic corporation?
Well, first it’s important to understand and accept that Amazon (and many others) have had a highly disruptive effect on the retail industry. There’s no doubt that we are in the midst of a seismic shift away from the 1990s model of retail expansion. That does not mean, however, that retail is dying. It simply means that retail is shifting. It is a natural industry progression, and folks, progress doesn’t stop.
Physical retail is evolving to meet the demands of a new and dynamic, on-demand consumer paradigm made possible by smartphones, high-speed Internet, and all your other favorite technologies. It’s a consumer culture that has been growing steadily for about 25 years. It’s important, then, to learn that the online arena is where the shoppers are. If you aren’t there, too, they won’t be shopping with you.
Look at it this way: Many traditional retailers using the Internet and technological advances to better serve their customer are thriving. These retailers, such as TJX, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Ross Stores, are showing increased sales and profitability and are even opening new locations that other retailers have vacated. Your omnichannel retail concept, properly marketed, could do the same.
One smart brand that is moving in to some spaces abandoned by competitors? That’s right: Amazon. The e-tailer is actually launching its own physical grocery stores and book stores—Yes, book stores! The reason why is because even Amazon recognizes that physical stores are a way to have a real, physical presence in people’s lives. Brick-and-mortars can help build trust, and even better, give Millennial shoppers the much-discussed “experiences” that focus groups insist they crave. Not to mention, people feel more comfortable returning items to a store rather than shipping them back. There are some needs that a website just isn’t as good at filling.
These Amazon stores are much smaller and fewer than your nearest Walmarts are likely to be, and there’s another lesson for entrepreneurs: Huge floor plans are on their way out. With a whole universe of goods available to anyone at any time at the swipe of a finger, limitless options and a self-checkout become pretty meaningless. Instead, give shoppers an experience they can’t find anywhere else. The retail dream isn’t dead. It’s just changing. To any entrepreneur worth her salt, that should smell like an opportunity.