For those of you who have been following along at home (or, more likely, work), we’ve been talking a lot about the so-called retail apocalypse. Yes, there have been a lot of stores that are failing, and while online retail is a huge contributor, it’s far from the only one. We’ve also pointed out that aggressive and creative brand strategies are necessary for survival.
One thing is clear from this generational purchasing shift: brick and mortar stores need to invest in their online divisions if they are going to live to see the next generation (or even next year). So, when we read that the mid-market department store Kohl’s announced a huge shift in their operations, we followed the story closely. Their choice is laudable, and, we think, fascinating.
Kohl’s announced an expansion of their internet business and the opening of a new fulfillment center. This is in addition to a relatively large fulfillment footprint they maintained with centers in California, Maryland, Texas, and Ohio. According to a recent story from Consumer Affairs, the omnichannel retailer is also going forward with four brand new small format stores throughout the country. These new stores follow a slightly different model than their sprawling department stores, with localized merchandise and kiosks where customers can browse a virtual catalog. Per the article, the chain has optimized 300 of its 1,100 locations and plans on downscaling half of its retail footprint by the end of 2017.
Kohl’s is doing more than merely downsizing. It’s adapting. It’s making a more personalized shopping experience, and it’s following the buying trends of its customers. We’ve talked before about the importance of fusing the in-person and online experience, and it’s refreshing to see an established physical retailer embracing this new paradigm so aggressively.
Marrying Online and Brick and Mortar
We’re duly impressed with brands (particularly smaller ones) that are broadening their reach, finding their audience both online and in person. The Casper/Target partnership launched a trend (of sorts), but how can you achieve that kind model off without Target’s substantial resources?
Outdoor outfitter evo is doing some experimenting in time for the big holiday shopping season. The online store (which has four physical locations in bigger markets like Seattle) is approaching indie stores in their vertical (yes, these are their competitors) so customers can have a tactile moment with merchandise before making a purchase. As quoted in the Denver Post, evo co-owner Bryce Phillips said: “We’ve reached out to the best independent shops and asked, can you offer the same service to our customers using your store and your expertise?”
Also from the article: “It’s a non-traditional approach, the kind of creativity independent stores are using to be competitive and survive in an increasingly uncertain retail industry. Phillips says the arrangements benefit all the retailers involved because customers who feel well-served are likely to buy something else in the store where they pick up their evo packages.”
It’s what we’ve been saying all along: experiment and do things now that a year ago, or even six months ago, seemed unthinkable. If we’ve learned anything as of late: wait too long to shift your strategy, and your story could be a sad, and increasingly familiar, one.
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