How can brick-and-mortar retail make a comeback?

How can brick-and-mortar retail make a comeback?

Retailers are wise to prioritize flexibility rather than putting all their eggs into either in-store or online baskets. The future of retail may be brick-and-mortar for some, however many factors are still at play. It’s not a simple answer. The future is not one-size-fits-all.

The ability to be nimble and proactive not only boosts efficiency, but is also a competitive advantage for retailers. By using technologies that provide the ability to adjust to changing customer attitudes in real time, retailers can ease themselves into the post-COVID world with less risk. By relying on data, they can understand, monitor, and swiftly cater to in-store and online demand.

—Sian Hopwood
EVP Local Business Units
BluJay Solutions

Can retail survive? Absolutely. But it needs to stay relevant to move forward. Smart retailers will take a multichannel approach, integrating online purchasing capabilities with in-store experiential shopping. More than anything, shoppers crave convenience, which online e-commerce gives them. Physical stores will be places that delight shoppers through experience, and also enable merchants to have merchandise where it is needed to get it to shoppers how and where they want to receive it.

—Laura Lough
Fulfillment and Logistics Partnership Director
Digital River

E-commerce growth will continue to outpace brick and mortar, but won’t fully replace it. Whether it’s providing unique in-store experiences such as pop-up shops or leveraging stores for convenient fulfillment options such as curbside pickup, physical stores will remain an integral part of supply chain strategies.

—Rudi Lueg
Managing Director
Exotec North America

E-commerce will continue to grow at the expense of brick-and-mortar stores, but there will likely always be a segment of the population that enjoys the in-store experience. Some shoppers will continue to prefer the ability to touch, try on, or try out products before buying. Retailers will likely need to "right-size" their space over time, but there will always be a place for storefronts so long as there is access to a safe and comfortable shopping experience.

—Greg Plemmons
Senior Vice President—Sales
Old Dominion Freight Line

Consumers are longing for deeper connections with their favorite brands and are eager to discover new ones. But not every retailer will make or need to make a comeback. Retailers need to account for future disruptions, not only at the store level, but across the entire supply chain. The key is to understand customers’ needs and expectations, and translate that into the right brick-and-mortar and digital experiences.

—Kerry Liu
EVP, Product Management & Innovation

The question is not can brick-and-mortar make a comeback, but which and when. As the entire retail industry emerges from lockdowns and short capacity, which retail experiences will consumers most prefer—boutique shops in close quarters, big box stores, or online only? And what trigger point in reopening—vaccination rate, local case counts, or public confidence—will tip consumers back to in-store spending?

—Evan Quasney
Global VP of Supply Chain

The world is definitely not ready to see brick-and-mortar retail disappear. However, with the current retail climate shifting to online, it is not easy for stores to remain open. With the help of advanced automation and effective distribution methods, there will be an evolution in how these businesses offer their products to customers.

One popular example is the click-and-collect method, where customers can order online and collect their packages in stores. With this approach, businesses can eliminate operational costs, connect with customers while enhancing their experience, and leverage impulse purchases.


People have always had an inherent appreciation for physical stores, even though there are more convenient purchase channels. It’s the nostalgia effect that will keep the remaining brick-and-mortar stores open. Sadly, this won’t be the case for all of them.

—Aldus von der Burg
Founder and CEO
Meili Robots

The pandemic fundamentally changed consumer buying behavior. E-commerce became and will remain a significant means of purchasing. Physical stores will still play an important role in consumer influence, buying behavior, and supporting a social aspect of shopping, but not to the levels we saw pre-pandemic.

—Kraig Foreman
President, eCommerce,
DHL Supply Chain North America

Traditional retail space will need to be rethought for e-commerce brick-and-mortar retail to make a comeback. For example, store space could be used as a showroom for the retailer’s best-selling products, and the remaining space could then be used as forward stocking for e-commerce fulfillment.

—Chuck Oeleis
Chief Revenue Officer
NEXT Trucking

Because of social distancing, there is a lot of pent-up energy for in-person experiences like shopping. There is a major opportunity for brands and retailers to leverage brick-and-mortar to satisfy these desires, especially as it relates to convenience, personalization, and the consumer experience.

But to do this, organizations need full visibility into their extended supply chain, and collaboration capabilities with their external partners. The digital enablement of this relationship is critical to ensuring that brands can gain the speed and agility needed to deliver product experiences that delight the end consumer.

—Jason Tham

Physical stores are the focal point of retailers’ omnichannel strategies by serving as fulfillment and purchase pickup facilities and faster last-mile shipping points. McKinsey describes this omnichannel approach as a "consumer-centric" supply chain by meeting customer needs across in-store, mobile, web, or direct-to-consumer channels. However, technology investments are critical for brick-and-mortar retailers to succeed.

—John Haber
Founder & CEO,
Spend Management Experts

BOPIS has pushed customer service to a new level with supply chain challenges. To be successful, retailers must master inventory control, transportation, and customer communications. Those who deliver best on their promise to supply a product at the right location at the right time will continue to add brick-and-mortar locations.

—Jared D. Wilson
Vice President-Client Service
Transportation Insight

Having more inventory closer to consumers will be increasingly essential for successful retail models. We’ve seen growing demand for solutions that support BOPIS and home delivery. While consumer behavior might look different today, brick-and-mortar will adapt, not go away.

—Dean Frew
CTO & SVP RFID Solutions
ML Group

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores have not changed to meet the digital revolution. And despite supply disruptions and shortages, customers want what they’ve always wanted—seamless experiences at a great price. Retailers are rethinking their physical stores as hybrids: part place to buy things, part fulfillment center, part showroom, part service hub.

—Todd Bremer
Vice President Supply Chain Consulting

Brick-and-mortar will continue to evolve and retailers will take a more holistic approach to their business where the supply chain will play an even greater strategic role in creating flawless execution and a great customer experience. While the quality and price of the product will always be important, we will see retailers place a greater emphasis on elements such as ambiance and excellent service to build customer relationships and attract in-store foot traffic.

—Jerry McDonald
Senior Vice President of Retail
GEODIS in Americas

Retailers must redesign their brick-and-mortar locations to be a destination and experience for consumers rather than just a shop that stores inventory. Bespoke and modern retailers have been paving the way with this approach and we’re seeing an uptick in physical showroom-style locations, which maintain low inventory and can be used not only for shopping but for events like launch parties, VIP access, and more.

—Samuel Parker
Product Evangelist

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