As more and more consumers opt to buy online and via their phones, many retailers are finding that their sales-per-square-footage numbers are waning. Instead of reaping increased sales with additional space, many brick-and-mortar retailers are having to make a difficult decision about downsizing.
Unfortunately, this consumer trend is unlikely to reverse. The downsizing and closing of physical store locations is an ongoing trend in US retailing that will likely continue beyond 2014.
If using most of a store space for showcasing incurs higher rents and personnel-related costs, wouldn’t it behoove retailers to take advantage of this trend by using their in-store space more efficiently and shrewdly?
For example, instead of displaying their merchandise throughout the space, retailers can have a beautifully merchandized, boutique-like showroom, with a small but attentive staff to ensure incredible customer experiences. All of the big box inventory can be strategically stocked in a back room or in a more cost-effective warehouse nearby.
A small showroom not only optimizes the sales-per-square-footage numbers but also enhances customer convenience. Customers can try the products at the front of the store, then simply check out at the cash register or use their mobile phones to place the order, electing to take their purchase with them immediately or have it delivered later to their homes—an option that many Ikea customers find convenient.
This strategy can come in especially handy as many physical retailers watch their sales be cannibalized by online retailers like Amazon. However, physical retailers have yet to respond with a game-changing and visionary solution to this long-standing problem.
Although we are seeing a growing trend of consumers moving online and embracing digitization, it’s essential that we keep the stores that we grew up with open and thriving. Can you imagine what shopping would be like if we couldn’t drive to a physical location to test-drive a high-price item or try on a new line of designer clothing?
Instead of tweaking traditional methods that physical retailers have used to keep stores afloat, why not make technology even more of an ally to physical stores—by delivering more sales with less retail space. At the same time, with fewer employees and less space to be concerned about, physical retailers can focus on improving the shopping experience and building relationships with customers, directly and in person.
Although IKEA is close to this vision of the future store, a wide range of retailers could benefit from IKEA’s retail strategy. Moving their clutter-prone inventory off the floor and into the backroom could make room for beautiful showcasing at the forefront of the store and positive experiences for the customer. The store of the future is really just a phenomenally well-merchandised showroom.