Is retail business dead? Or just different?

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// Retail businesses around the world have been crippled by the effects of COVID-19. But as some stores close, others adapt… some prosper.

Since the introduction of online retail in the 1990s, some traditional ‘bricks n mortar’ retailers have found it increasingly difficult to compete. Remember Blockbusters? Borders? Toys R Us?

Even before the pandemic, the number of physical stores and shops had been trending down. What’s happened over the past few months has been the final death knell for many.

Since COVID, retailers aren’t so much pressured to adapt, they are forced to adapt, or face closure.

A recent report by global management firm, McKinsey & Company, concluded that a business’ ability to survive will be depend on its ‘ability to absorb a shock and come out of it better than the competition‘.

In the context of this year and beyond, it means that retailers will either find new ways to do business, or perish.

Luxury women’s fashion retailer Camilla and Marc adapted quickly. They launched a new e-commerce store that replicated their in-store approach with a live chat and a shoppable journal. Camilla and Marc’s CEO Mark Freeman has stated that they have created a “rich brand environment that is built on convenience, first.”

Camilla and Marc’s website with live chat (Source: Screenshot)

Although Camilla and Marc is a high-end example, there are plenty of other businesses that are now transitioning to a more online environment. Super-stores such as Kmart and Woolworths are using their physical stores as online fulfillment centres for increased online shopping.

Meanwhile, advances in technology have made it easier to transition online. NIKE’s ‘NikeID’ technology allows shoppers to customise a shoe after they have been in store to try it on. ZARA uses augmented reality to show you how a garment fits and moves, all before you buy.

Zara’s Augmented Reality (Source: Electric Runway)

This ‘Clicks and Mortar’ approach is replacing traditional bricks and mortar, and is something that Australian retailers need to get a handle on, or face being blown away by better-funded international competitors.

On the face of it, these changes were always going to happen. COVID has simply brought things forward. Retail is permanently changed, but it isn’t dead. The only casualties in retail will be the ones that can’t or won’t adapt.

Just look at local ecommerce-related businesses Uno Group and KeepSpace to see what’s trending. These two WA startups were born on the net, connecting clicks and mortar. They are flying.

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Main image source: Smart Business Plans

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