Brick-and-mortar irrelevance?

January 10, 2016By Industry Intuition, Views


By Dave Wendland for Drug Store News

December 10, 2015

Many fresh ideas and forward-looking visions were shared during the recent — and highly impactful — Drug Store News Industry Issues Summit. For the 12th consecutive year, I had the distinct honor of moderating a panel focused on chronic care and retail health. What a pleasure to learn of the collaborative efforts underway among the suppliers and retailers on the panel. How exciting to discuss the CDC’s recent report citing a decline in the incidence of diabetes in our country. And it was inspiring to hear how technology, advanced science, and the evolving role of pharmacists are poised to improve outcomes for patients stricken with chronic conditions.

Then, we heard from the keynote speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk, and members of the audience were shell-shocked. Mr. Vaynerchuk challenged everyone to consider whether they are “operating in the past” or “living in the moment.” Truthfully, many in the audience have not yet accepted the realities of today’s marketplace. A market dominated by speed, agility, omnipresent access, reasonable prices, and always in-stock demands.

This holiday shopping season has certainly underscored the significance of the Internet and mobile-shopping at the expense of brick-and-mortar. For some, Black Friday became masked in embarrassing and financially-troubling streaks of red. Sales at retail stores on Black Friday fell 10 percent to $10.4 billion this year, down from $11.6 billion in 2014, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

I am confident that unique end-to-end models will emerge within brick-and-mortar retail. The idea that it is an “either-or proposition” to have both a traditional storefront and online presence is yesterday’s news. It is no longer a question of whether to add e-commerce capabilities — I believe it is necessary. It is also impractical to consider mobile, social media or seamless shopping across every channel luxuries that only a few can deploy. These new building blocks have become essential to the very foundation of any retail operator.

So have brick-and-mortar stores become irrelevant? Well, if they are operating as they have historically functioned and not risen to the challenge of today’s shopping demands, I’m afraid so. But for those willing to adapt, evolve, and meet shopper’s needs today — and tomorrow — there is a bright future indeed.