It should come as no surprise that we continue to see the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Virtual and mobile sales now account for 10% of all sales, and experts suggest that number will grow to 20% before long. So how do downtown and neighborhood commercial districts compete? Rest assured, the retail industry is not taking the threat of on-line shopping lightly. There are a few things that we can learn from how the retail industry is responding to the changing nature of consumer shopping habits…
Multichannel retailing – not just for the big guys
Many retailers reported a lackluster holiday season, but Macy’s was not among them [“Macy’s shows it can make big bucks online”, Crain’s New York, 1/13]. Admittedly, Macy’s is closing downtown department stores in under performing markets. On the flip side, the storied department store has figured out a way to turn the threat of online shopping into an opportunity. This year alone the department store has seen a 52% increase in online sales.
Being able to search and buy on-line – even when in the store – effectively allows Macy’s to offer more inventory with less space, and move overflow items out of some stores and into shoppers hands before the need to discount. While the future of the downtown department store remains unknown, the ability to turn on-line shopping into an opportunity to grow market share is still a critical play in the downtown revitalization playbook.
- Create a “downtown” website. Some downtown organizations are helping small businesses by creating destination shopping websites. When retailers combine forces, they can build an on-line identity that plays on people’s desires to buy local. In Oakland, California, the City of Oakland has spearheaded a “Shop Oakland” website that focuses on listing local businesses and highlights their on-line offerings.
- Creating new venues for on-line sales…it’s not just about a website. The term F-Commerce is not yet widely known, but will be soon. Some small businesses are gaining traction selling via Facebook using services like Payvment that provide support for Facebook transactions.
- Use existing, well known channels for selling. Etsy is another way to build an on-line presence, especially for specialty retailers.
|A ropes course at the Palisades Mall in
New City, NY keeps
kids busy while parents shop.