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Maybe it’s just the way the stars aligned this week, but I’ve come across more than one article about the death of retail.  Ralph Lauren has closed its Fifth Avenue flagship store only two years after it opened. Macy’s, Sears, Rue 21…all closing stores around the United States.

According to a recent article in the NY Times, “Between 2010 and 2014, e-commerce grew by an average of $30 billion annually. Over the past three years, average annual growth has increased to $40 billion. ‘That is the tipping point, right there,’ said Barbara Denham, a senior economist at Reis, a real estate data, and analytics firm. ‘It’s like the Doppler effect. The change is coming at you so fast, it feels like it is accelerating.’ This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting longtime brands and leading to staggering job losses.”

I love online shopping.  By a number of cardboard boxes that show up on my doorstep each week I think I should be buying our Fed-Ex, UPS, and USPS delivery people Christmas gifts each year because they spend so much time at our house.  I order just about anything I can from Amazon Prime.  It’s convinient, especially since the alternative is dragging a toddler from store to store.

But, I don’t believe retail is dead.  In fact, I even see a thriving retail experience happening right here in West Michigan.  So why are certain retails finding success when their competitors are closing their doors?

Customer Experience.

There is something to be said for stores that know their customer, understand their market, and don’t try to be all things to everyone.  Think about it – there are certain stores that you seek out.  You may make a plan to visit there or look forward to actually going in person.  It’s typically an environment that offers exception customer service and a pleasing atmosphere for shopping.  Stores need to offer exceptional customer service and a pleasing atmosphere for shopping.  It’s a place that you want to spend your time.

It’s so frustrating when you walk into an overly crowded store, the person working there just watches you shop, and it’s hard to view the products because they are unorganized and jammed onto racks.  One of my favorite West Michigan stores always has someone greet me when I walk in and the merchandise is easy to browse.  Space is not overly crowded and everything is displayed well.   They even don’t balk when I come rolling in with my toddler in a stroller.

Big brands that are making retail work are also focused on the customer experience. Mizzuno, for example, opened their first US retail store in April.  Named the Mizuno Experience Center, General Manager Becky Snider commented, “We’re not calling this a retail store,” she said. “We’re calling it an experience center because while you’ll be able to purchase product, and we certainly want to help you do that, it’s more about immersing you into our craftsmanship and the innovative features of our brand.”

The Mizzuno Experience will feature a baseball swing lab, a running lab, and other activities that will engage customers in the retail space.  Retailers of any size can benefit from this concept.  Create special events, workshops, and activities that engage your customer community and help connect your brand to their lifestyle.

Retailers lose out when customers choose convenience over experience.  If customers don’t find an emotional value in visiting the store, then they are most certainly going to order online.

What more can you do for your clients than selling them something?


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