The news seems grim.
Kohl’s Corp. just reported a brutal third quarter. Sales at Macy’s Corp. are in free-fall as rumors swirl that the once venerable retailer might be forced to close more stores. Sales at Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. plunged more than 5% in its fiscal second quarter.
But there’s hope. Off-price retailers such as Ross Inc. and TJX Cos. are thriving. And a new survey reveals that 43% of consumers in the Pacific Northwest prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Only 17% prefer to mostly shop online, according to Washington State University’s Carson College of Business’ third annual holiday retail survey.
The study also reveals that 81% of Pacific Northwest residents shop discount retailers.
“Although consumers feel they get a better deal online, the rate they are shopping in stores is remaining steady, supporting the value of brick-and-mortar stores,” says Joan Giese, WSU clinical associate professor of marketing. “We’ve found shoppers often find inspiration for gifts while perusing the aisles and value in-person customer service and the ability to see and feel the products.”
There’s a certain “thrill of the hunt” experience that’s simply more gratifying in a physical store environment. More than two-thirds of the 1,700 respondents say they prefer the in-store experience because they can see and feel products in person. Almost half find “inspiration” for gift buying by walking around a store or mall.
For the most part, savvy companies are combining a strong online presence with physical locations. Think Target Corp., whose shares this week hit an all-time high after a strong third quarter earnings report. Or even Seattle’s Amazon Inc. The world’s largest online retailer continues to invest heavily in brick-and-mortar two years after buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.
As Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told investors during the retailer’s conference call this week: “Traffic continues to be the primary driver of our growth. Overall, our traffic grew 3.1% in the third quarter, as our guests chose to shop with us more often, both in stores and through our digital options.”
Brick-and-mortar isn’t dead. It’s simply changing.