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Bricks and mortar plays a vital role in retail - despite the job cuts - says Tryzens CEO Andy Burton

The high number of job cuts reported in retail is unfortunate and could be considered devastating for the sector. However, retailers must not be deterred by the rise in retail causalities as the brick-and-mortar high street store will continue to play a critical role in the future of retail.

Many reports reiterate the often-held belief that there is effectively a battle between brick and mortar and online retailers, when in fact they are different faces of the same coin. Although there is no denying that online consumer spending is growing whilst traditional stores are struggling to maintain share of market, Tryzens’ recent research has shown consumers still value and engage in stores for the physical experience of seeing, trying-on or testing products.  For example, 62% of consumers still prefer to try clothes in-store before buying them online, indicating the importance of the in-store experience to support online purchases (showrooming).

Despite the tough tide, there is an opportunity for retailers to come out on top. Retailers with physical stores can build rich experiences with their customers by taking advantage of customer touch points to create personalised offerings, while engaging with shoppers that seek a touch & feel experience before purchasing, such as real-life try-on of garments. Therefore, retailers that marry their online and in-store offers - including click and collect, loyalty schemes and common promotions across channels - enable the provision of new personalised service and tailored experiences that are contextually aware and consistent across in-store and online engagement. 

While there have been high-profile failures, there are equally plenty of success stories in the market where Brands have considered the symbiotic relationship of online and instore shopping to ensure they work well together. Key store locations have been proven to drive online awareness in a locality and online engagement can be used effectively to drive activity with stores. The challenge is not about the decline of the high street store but rather is all about its reinvention for a digitally savvy consumer. We will see more creative ways of leveraging technology instore and over the internet to drive exceptional customer experiences through concepts such as retailtainment, gamification and AI – so the future is healthy if the strategy is right and the retailer or Brand is flexible to change.

Andy Burton is CEO of Tryzens