Axios has a story about how "a confluence of depressing factors — from stores closing en masse to frustrating self-checkout lanes and unwearable fashion trends — has made the time-honored tradition of a fall shopping trip lose its luster … While retail sales are healthy, the industry sorely needs shoppers to return to stores rather than just buying online, lest the in-person shopping experience — so important to that magic alchemy that bonds consumers to a brand — wither and atrophy.
"Customers who visit stores tend to buy extra stuff, are less likely to return things, and drive traffic to retailers' websites."
The story notes that "robust consumer spending belies the fact that malls and downtowns are dotted with vacancies, discouraging shoppers and blighting neighborhoods.
"Post-pandemic retail inventories tend to be spotty, leaving exasperated shoppers to forsake bricks for clicks.
"Inflation has made everything seem expensive, from everyday purchases to minor splurges."
It is true, the story says, that "some chains are pouring money into their physical locations, aiming to draw back shoppers through conveniences like centralized checkout counters (JCPenney), fabulous new escalators (Saks) and showpiece artwork (Tiffany's)." And, for all its bricks-and-mortar woes, for the moment "Amazon keeps trying to roll out physical stores of its own, suggesting there's still money/power in a brick-and-mortar presence."
- KC's View:
I think the problem with a lot of physical stores is that they're just a pain in the neck to shop. The experience is blah (blame unimaginative executives), there is a shortage of experienced, effective help (blame the pandemic), and for many folks (me included), I want to save the physical trips for the times when they make a difference. (Fresh food from Stew Leonard's, for example, where shopping actually can be both fun and efficient.) But in categories where it doesn't seem to matter, spare me the waste of time. I have other stuff I'd rather do.
For too many retailers, "magic alchemy" is elusive, if they're looking for it at all.