What SMBs can learn from recent retail closures

People carrying shopping bags

Multiple widely known retailers have recently made headlines for announcing the closure of some or all of their retail outlets. Even if your e-commerce business doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store, there’s still a lot you can learn from the experiences of these retailers.

Focus on your omnichannel experience

Are you still thinking about online and in-person retail as separate experiences? Stop it. Shopping is an omnichannel experience, and your focus should be on the best way to sell to a customer no matter where they are, whether they’re shopping in person, on their computer or on a mobile device.

“There has been a lot of talk about online versus in-store retail in the past few months, but that comes from people who don’t realize that online and retail today are the same thing,” Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation President and CEO, recently said. “In the new distributed commerce world that allows consumers to buy any product, anytime, anywhere, it really doesn’t matter whether a customer shops in a company’s store or on its website or mobile app. It’s all retail. Today’s retailers sell to shoppers any way they want to buy.”

Multiple department store chains have recently announced restructuring plans that include the closure of some retail locations but also funneling more resources into e-commerce and mobile commerce improvements.

J.C. Penney found that omnichannel customers shopping through multiple channels spend twice as much with the retailer per year than store-only or online-only shoppers. Here are a couple things J.C. Penney and other retailers are doing that an e-commerce business of any size with a brick-and-mortar can use when developing (or expanding) an omnichannel strategy:

  1. Ship from store—maximize sales by shipping in-store merchandise to online shoppers instead of just relying on a fulfillment center.
  2. In-store pickup—when a customer orders online at JCP.com and goes to a J.C. Penney store to pick up the order, 40 percent now buy another product during the trip.

Pay attention to your footprint

What are you doing with your space? A 2016 report by Moody’s Investor Service said many brick-and-mortar retailers “are still struggling under the weight of excess square footage” and that “there is still far too much retail square footage overall.”

“We are not in the camp that believes mass store closings are in order, but rather, think that the ‘fleet’ must be repurposed, with some store closings a likely by-product,” Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s lead retail analyst, said in a statement.

H&M is one retailer re-evaluating its brick-and-mortar footprint and recently announced that it’ll slow the opening of new stores in order to focus more resources on e-commerce and the performance of existing stores.

Empty mall space is even proving to be an opportunity for online-only retailers—in some cases, e-commerce retailers without physical stores are converting empty mall space into makeshift distribution centers for pickups and returns of items bought online, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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