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.

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