b'PHYSICALWHY DEISMALLGETTING RETAILSMATTERS MINERSPOLITICALFUTURE STRUGGLE IN PUBLIC Helzbergs Diamond Room Experience is another tech upgrade for the retailer. It gives customers a high-definition view of their diamond. (Photo courtesy of Dimensional Innovations)THE NECESSITY OF PHYSICAL RETAIL said they just liked the experience of going into a store.Bringing customers into a physical store, a problem long beforeThe ability to touch and feel items was also a major draw, cited COVID-19 became a pandemic, grows increasingly difficult amidby 62 percent of those surveyed, while 49 percent liked the instant safety concerns while online sales continue to climb. gratification of taking their purchase home immediately. The continued growth of e-commerce begs the question, howOne in five consumers liked the easy returns process afforded by necessary are physical stores to the retail landscape? in-store shopping. Online shopping has been growing and gaining market share overOnly 13 percent cited the ability to ask store associates questions the years, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. as a reason to go into a store, signaling some improvements could be In 2009, e-commerce sales in the United States totaled $134.9 bil- made in that area for shoppers used to having a world of information lion, accounting for a little less than 4 percent of total sales. Fast-for- at their fingertips when shopping online.ward a decade and theyve ballooned to $601.7 billion. Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, the retail maven behind website Retail Thats growth of nearly 350 percent in 10 years, but e-commerceMinded, also believes stores are here to stay and have something still only has a sliver11 percentof total retail sales. special to offer consumers.When the pandemic took hold, retailers that already had an onlinePhysical retail offers connectivity to consumers that online doesnt.presence, or quickly figured out how to get one, found online sales toCustomers may be staying home right now but that wont last for-be their saving grace as physical stores were closed to help stem theever, she says, and returning customers are on the lookout for brand spread of the virus. connectivity both online and in stores.The heightened popularity of online shop- As for whether or not a retailer absolutely needs a physical store, ping exacerbated fears that in-store shoppingthats hard to say.was soon to be shown the door. Reyhle says retailers need to consider their audience, because a Peter Smith, a well-known industry speak- retailer looking to sell locally and one looking to broaden its horizons READ MORE FROM er and author who is also a National Jewelereach have different needs.NATIONAL JEWELER columnist, sought to put those worries to rest during a webinar in May. A LOOK TO THE MAJORSCOLUMNIST PETER SMITH There will be some changes that happen asSome retailers definitely benefit from having a storefront, but just ON MAKING THE MOST a consequence of this, but I dont think for onehow many do they need? And where should they be? OF IN-STORE VISITS, second that its going to fundamentally changeMajor retailers have been reassessing their physical footprint in PAGE 68.peoples need and want to get out into retailrecent years, downsizing as they move out of struggling malls and stores, he said. other slow-traffic areas. Smith, who is also president of diamond brands Mmoire andThe pandemic only hastened retailers need to rightsize their Hearts On Fire, believes brick-and-mortar stores will remain relevantstore count. due in part to the human need to be around others. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the parent company of stores including Zales A 2017 survey by Retail Dive asked 1,425 shoppers their reasons forand Kay Jewelers, began leaving Class B malls and shuttering its shopping in stores rather than online. About one-fifth, or 18 percent,regional banners before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.Continued on page 1210 STATE OF THE MAJORS 2020'