Ross Stores, Dick’s Sporting Goods and TJ Maxx Expand Footprints

Ulta Beauty also among stores planning for growth.

News of the death of brick-and-mortar retail may be exaggerated. Turns out, people still like to go out and shop, especially when retailers up their game and differentiate how they offer products and serve customers. They are also utilizing technology to operate as efficiently as possible, capitalizing on the inventory in physical stores to improve their supply chain.

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Offshoots with growth plans range from Amazon Go convenience stores to Home Sense.

“When Amazon sneezes, everyone else gets a cold,” is a maxim that more than a few analysts have used to explain declines in the share price of retail stocks.

But news that Amazon plans to open more of its Amazon Go convenience stores is having an opposite, buoyant effect — the Internet giant’s belief in the value of brick-and-mortar is making people remember that locations with street addresses instead of URLs can be valuable assets. Whether it’s off-price stores like Burlington or Ross, or offshoots like the Field & Stream brand of Dick’s Sporting Goods, there’s a realization that the right offering in a high-traffic location will still bring customers in. The web is a powerful outlet but people still actually do like to go somewhere, too.

Despite the decline of Sears and the bankruptcy of Toys R Us, malls are seeing new demand. Even digital commerce pioneers like Warby Parker are seeking out physical stores. Today, retail success lies in the ability to offer shoppers an experience that is different, whether it’s great bargains on unexpected goods or a dynamic in-store environment. Smarter check-outs, immersive reality, connected devices — all of it can make shutting down the computer and traveling out to the mall an appealing idea. At Neiman Marcus, some store associates now have AI devices with information to improve their interactions with customers.

The net takeaway?  Retail locations are for more than floor sales. They can also create a memorable experience that will make the customer remember the store in the future, whether they’re buying an item in a few clicks or after a drive and a short walk.

Ship-from-Store creates supply chain efficiency

In addition to connecting with potential customers in a physical space filled with living, breathing associates, many retailers are realizing that stores can improve their inventory and shipping process. With the right technology, shipping from a store can not only save costs, it can get an item into a customer’s hands sooner. It’s an instant gratification world and the less time people spend waiting, the more likely they are to return and shop again.

Nordstrom, Kohl‘s, Target and Macy’s all launching new efforts.

It’s been said over and over that retail is all about change. In recent months, many stores have started new initiatives. Here are a few:

  • Nordstrom launched its first men’s store — a full line in an environment that is both high-tech and high-touch. Will guys embrace it?
  • Macy’s bought Story, a concept shop that could help the venerable retailer find its way forward.
  • Target and Kohl’s are testing new loyalty programs, both trying to reduce the friction and simplify offerings.
  • Walmart went to a more casual dress code. Okay, so we don’t fully understand this one. But it sounds like a modern move.

People have always loved to shop. That won’t change.

Whether it’s online, in a store or even from a catalog — hey, even Amazon is considering going retro and launching one — the motivation to buy is not going away any time soon. While retail will go through constant shifts and certain stores will disappear from the landscape, new concepts and innovative experiences will continue to drive sales.

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