Does Bricks and Mortar Retail Really Need to Be Entertaining to Succeed?


Does bricks and mortar retailing need to entertain us to be relevant? Does it, like "Guy Visser and His Singing Duck" in the above video, have to put on a show in order to get us to buy?

That was the thought that went through my mind as I read a very interesting look at the future of malls by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. Their analysis, "4 Visions of the Future of Shopping Centers" considers the changes malls will need to make in order to survive in the coming years. 

In their 4 visions of the future, they consider malls as retail spaces that are anchored by entertainment (think indoor ski slope), shared values like politics or belief, research (the mall as a locus for consumer research) and residential living. All very intriguing ideas.

I wonder, however, if this contemporary view of bricks and mortar retailing as having to offer more than just a consumption experience is missing a vital point. That point being that for bricks and mortar retailing to be successful the product mix and the shopping experience itself has to be entertaining.

Great museums curate their art collections. Shouldn't retailers feel the same way about what they offer? Museums not only choose what to hang on their walls but, as importantly, where to hang them, what hangs next to what, how much space between works of art, how much light to provide, what temperature to maintain and whatever else is required to create a compelling experience. An experience that makes you want to go to a museum rather than look up works of art on line.

Yes, for retailers price is important but if you are asking someone to come to your store then the product experience in the individual and aggregate has to be compelling in such a way that it is worth the trip.

And while we are at it, bricks and mortar retailers need to avoid being out of stock like the plague. Prior to the convenience of Internet shopping, consumers anticipated that retailers would be out of what they wanted. They weren't happy but they lived with it because they had no other choice. Today they do and they see a wasted trip as wasted time. 

I like the ideas I found in the Kearney report but they seem more secondary to survival than essential. Great product displayed with great care with an inventory level that does not disappoint is what I see as the future of bricks and mortar retailing. What do you think?

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