5 Reasons Why Banking on the Future of Retail Rental Space is a Brainy Choice
Just as many today predict an all-digital retail environment, a final death blow to brick-and-mortar retail rental space, so have they expected the long-coveted “paperless office.” Nearly 50 years ago, in a Business Week article titled, “The Office of the Future,” writer Vincent E. Giuliano typed out a reasonably prophetic sentence: “By 1990, most record-handling will be electronic.”
Considering that by 1991, nearly a quarter of college graduates owned a personal computer, it would be easy to assume the paperless office would undoubtedly be around today, 31 years after the article’s publication.
Except that it’s not. Not even close. And neither has “Amazon everything” come to pass.
For a variety of not-so-much technological reasons, but for profoundly sociological and neurological ones, we continue to crave the physical medium of processed trees, as we do the in-person retail experience. Consider this: the average office worker (pre-pandemic) still generates around 2lbs of paper and paperboard products per day and burns through 10,000 sheets of bleached wood pulp annually. Likewise, the same flawed logic holds true for brick-and-mortar naysayers who have long prognosticated the end of the physical store.
A Modern Macy’s Moment
If anything, as the world emerges from its COVID cave and as mass vaccinations do their job, brick-and-mortars are likely to enjoy a foot traffic foxtrot. A recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey found that 73 percent of mall shoppers were eager to get back to business as usual. Shoppers yearn to casually peruse physical aisles searching for their product or products of choice and then hurriedly heading to checkout.
More than a flash-in-the-pan moment, it’s an uptick that’s likely to evolve into a steady stream of ongoing in-store customer engagement. The key to sustaining this surge is to out-innovate the competition – and thrive in the face of new and unexpected challenges. For instance, Macy’s founder Rowland Hussey Macy grew his first Manhattan store in 1851 into 680 stores today!
With Rowland Macy as inspiration, here are 4 ways physical storefronts can do just that:
- Maximize Experiential Marketing: In the instant gratification world of online retail, it’s easy to forget that in-store shopping isn’t just about the products; it’s about the experience. Stores should appear inviting; staff should be friendly and knowledgeable; displays should “pop,” enticing customers to buy; and acoustics should encourage conversation.
- Mr. Clean, Mrs. Clean, and Everything In Between: Post-COVID and for likely a long time after that, customers will want to see an evident effort to keep a storefront clean and safe from the exchange of surface and airborne-transmissible disease. Frequent cleaning will not only need to be performed, but also apparent to shoppers. Social distancing should still be encouraged; plastic barriers at cash registers should be maintained, and masks and disinfecting gels should be readily available. Even if patrons begin to lower their guard (as they inevitably will as vaccination rates rise), the optics will be an essential in-store marketing tool, similar to how airports make security “theater” critical to the security itself.
- Drive-Thru Speed With Walk-In Need: Just because the physical store is a place to congregate doesn’t mean it needs to be a sluggish experience. Brick-and-Mortars need to be fast on their feet, replenishing inventory quickly, getting in new product facts, and having it leave the store equally fast. Retails must also adopt curbside purchase and payment options for customers interested in speed and health safety.
- Adopt On-Site Warehousing: Thanks to better tracking, the wants, needs, and desires of shoppers, brick-and-mortars can better “micro” warehouse. Essentially, micro-warehousing is the idea of dedicating space to keep needed inventory on immediate hand, based on preference and buying trends. This will help reduce transportation costs and also heighten customer satisfaction, helping physical stores remain competitive with online competitors.
The bottom line for brick-and-mortar retailers is that despite all the digital shopping progress, the global pandemic has inadvertently helped enable people, at their core, to still crave in-person, physical experiences. It’s something the late Walt Disney understood well when he was building Disneyland. While he correctly noted, “Disneyland is a show,” he also knew that what he was offering was an escapist paradise. “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park [Disneyland]. I want [them] to feel they’re in another world,” he said.
Smart brick-and-mortar owners know that their physical stores, if done right, can provide the same level of emotional outlet to their patrons that Disneyland and Disney World does for their guests today.
For these reasons, it seems likely that for all the gains companies like Amazon and other online retailers have made, banking on brick-and-mortars’ future success seems like a solid pen-to-paper bet. Just as the genuinely paperless office or retail rental space will never fully come to pass, an online-only shopping world looks as likely as… a giant, talking mouse. (A real one, that is, not a character actor in costume at an amusement park.)
Partnering With the Experts for the Retail Rental Space of Your Dreams
From mixed-use developments to the most popular shopping centers, venues, and other commercial properties for rent and commercial properties for sale in Columbus, Ohio, and the Central Ohio region, The Robert Weiler Company is ready to guide you into the future. Each year brings innovation and transformation, and we look forward to building new additions to the community together.
It’s a splash of innovation you could rightly say is very much in keeping with “The Commercial Real Estate Company of the Future.” Contact an expert commercial real estate broker at The Robert Weiler Company today at 614-221-4286. Discuss your retail rental space goals and see how we can uncover a future home for your storefront, together.