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Do we even need retail stores anymore?

Some will argue that there is no need to even leave the couch in order to acquire anything and everything our little hearts desire.  There is quite a bit of truth to that and many feel that you can’t beat the convenience of it as well.  But consider this question; how inconvenient is convenience?  The answer to this question also answers the bigger question; do we even need retail stores anymore?

I want to share a recent shopping experience of my own that proves physical retail stores are still completely needed and wanted and, despite all the talk, are not dying and going the way of the dinosaur.

I’m always perfecting and playing with spaces in my house…it’s either an avid hobby of mine or an addiction; depends who you talk to.  The current project at hand is my dining room.  I am impatient in seeing my vision come to life, so while I paint and do all laborious parts, I thought I’d order new chairs and a new area rug from two of my trusty online sources just to speed things up.  I knew what I wanted, so felt confident in not going to the physical store to feel out these choices.  The area rug was a slam dunk.  The dining chairs were not.  And here’s where convenience completely became soooo inconvenient and wildly time consuming!

I unpacked the chairs, dealt with all the packaging and assembled the chairs; all the while knowing that they were not quite right now that I saw them in the space. I persevered because who wants to face the dreaded online return process?  After eye-balling the chairs in the space for 24 hours, I faced the music and packed everything up, loaded up the car and headed to the store.  When I got there, I was without the online order email that allowed the refund to be processed properly.  In the end, with precious hours that I will never get back, I had made 2 trips to the store to make the online return and then still didn’t have the dining chairs I needed to finish my project!   The hard truth here is that if I had opted to just go to the store location in the first place, I would have immediately realized that the chairs I had in mind weren’t going to work!  So how inconvenient was the supposed convenience of shopping online?

Now, had I gone to the store location in the first place to see the chairs I had in mind in living colour, I would have gotten to sit in the chairs, see them in situ set up with a dining table, touch the fabric, understand their scale and so on.  All things you certainly can’t do online.  But, on top of that, I am willing to bet that a well-trained sales associate at that physical store could have turned my attention to other possibilities and this entire experience would have not only been a heck of a lot more efficient, but also way more satisfying for both me and the store.

Retail stores certainly are still needed and wanted in this marketplace.  Now more than ever, it’s the people inside those stores that are the key differentiator and the ones that hold the entire shopping experience in their hands.  Giving those ambassadors inside the stores the confidence and knowledge to create these wonderfully satisfying (and entertaining) shopping experiences for customers should be every retailers’ quest.  Online shopping isn’t going to go away, but despite strides in technology that allow for building relationships on some level with consumers, shopping online will never be able to deliver on all the sensory and exciting, human experiences that could and should be happening inside the physical retail store.

I bet you’re wondering where I netted out with my dining chairs.  Happy ending.  I found the perfect chairs, in a store with the help of a stellar store manager.

Now, what do you think?  Do we even need retail stores anymore?

Blog Authors: Mary & Kim

Mary GordonKim McCutcheon

Mary Gordon and Kim McCutcheon have been supporting retail front lines for as long as they can remember. A dynamic duo, Mary and Kim understand what it takes to make training work at store level and know how to inspire, coach and support retail teams in all of their training endeavours.

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