Bricks & mortar is here to stay

Bricks and mortar is here to stay. I realise it’s a big statement but I stand by it. I do have one caveat though, and that is, bricks and mortar is zierahere to stay, but not as we know it. Taking you back a few years, the world wide web officially launched in 1990, with online banking emerging and Pizza Hut opening a ‘store’ on the ‘www’ in 1994. Virtual retail behemoth, Amazon, launched in 1995, along with eBay. It took a few years for the cost of website builds to decline, and suddenly there was an avalanche of everyone (and I mean everyone) jumping onboard. It was exciting times for sure, but the noise and clutter in cyberspace got incredibly overwhelming. The barriers to entry were so low everyone and anyone created a store online without any regard to the quality of product or service. At the end of the day – no matter how much social media has revolutionised our inability to interact with each other, humans do require a certain level of interface with other humans. Fundamentally, the traditional retail store will be around, if (and only if) they evolve so they meet consumer’s growing yearning for a unique experience. Fortunately for designers like us, we can get really creative but there is more to it. In New Zealand, Barkers was one of the first retail chains to take the traditional retail model online. It was at the forefront of the Kiwi retail market back then and has done it again with the launch of the Barkers flagship store on Queen St incorporating a café and a Groom Room. This strategy is successfully tapping into an international retail trend of creating a community via bricks and mortar. The booming store of the future will align its online strategy to drive people into the store and will ensure it is a destination, rather than a house of product, which is exactly what Barkers have accomplished. It is a place which is welcoming and genuine in its personality, customers have a personal connection with the staff, the brand tells a story, and the entire experience adds value to the customer’s experience. It is the development of large scale consumer-focused stores like Apple that will ensure bricks and mortar will be immortalised. Apple has raised the benchmark for us all and the customer now has high expectations. Thanks Apple! We can look upon Apple as a kind of deity, an inspiration, a champion of retail which is keeping us all on our toes and makes us evolve and think uniquely. It also makes us truly understand our customer. It’s a good thing really. Let’s not forget that many e-commerce retailers have identified how important the physical store is, with Amazon and Google announcing new store openings. Having a physical store creates a multi-sensory environment, the experience is much stronger and more heightened in person. Nothing beats touching and feeling a product and having a true interaction with the product and brand rather than simply looking through the screen of a computer. Lizzi Hines is MD of Spaceworks Design Group and can be contacted on 0800 2 FIT OUT.