Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren has referred to old-fashioned brick and mortar stores as “the new black” for retail. At first glance, this remark seems anachronistic, even contradictory; after all, how could traditional retail venues suddenly become “stylish?” The answer lies in the supposed dominance of e-commerce, and the revelation of this retail bogeyman as a paper tiger. For retailers to succeed in the future, they need to not overly emphasize the hallmarks of the e-commerce revolution; instead, retailers should return to the hallowed tenets of retail excellence: an exceptional in-store experience and unparalleled customer service.
THE PROBLEM WITH E-COMMERCE
In the early 2000s, analysts predicted that the rise of e-commerce sites like Amazon presaged doom for traditional retail. The low prices, convenience and selection of online retailers — in addition to the novelty of shopping from home — seemed like a hit with consumers, and many retailers floundered in their attempts to compete. Eighteen years down the road, the situation has flipped dramatically. Now, it’s e-commerce that has begun to struggle, namely thanks to slash-and-burn pricing tactics and rising shipping costs.
Amazon built its reputation on free shipping and low prices. In order to compete, other online retailers were forced to follow suit. In recent years, Amazon’s shipping costs have risen more than 40%, an increase that has had a massive effect on the retailer’s slim profit-margin. Online shopping has also become mundane, with consumers rediscovering the joy of the in-person experience.
A Retail Solution
Traditional retailers have a leg-up on online competition thanks to a brick-and-mortar’s ability to function as both a store and distribution center. As it turns out, customers enjoy browsing a store; in-store pick-up has become a popular option for consumers, as it combines the flexibility of online browsing and the fun of the in-store experience. Customers can also get the immediate gratification of same-day receipt, something that online retailers struggle to offer.
Another benefit of the traditional brick-and-mortar? Face-to-face customer service.Sometimes customers aren’t sure what to buy, or the best choices for their wardrobe and budget. Skilled and knowledgeable sales associates, such as those who have undergone training or purchased educational materials from BJ Wilson and Company, can point customers toward better wardrobe choices. This personalized service is something that no online retailer can offer, and points the way forward for a clothing retailer’s long term success.
At the end of the day, traditional retailers will survive, while e-commerce’s viability remains in question. If anything, the rise and fall of e-commerce should have taught traditional retailers some valuable lessons: never skimp on customer service, and always strive to offer an exceptional in-store experience. BJ Wilson and Company, a revolutionary source for expansive retail training, offers a comprehensive solution.
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