RSR has been conducting an annual benchmark on the state of the store since the company launched in 2007. It’s one area where we always hope to see change from the previous year’s respondents. After all, many of us have grown disillusioned with how little the shopping experience has changed in the physical world. As stores remain dusty, boring and unengaging, the ways we use personal technologies has completely altered our digital experiences. Therefore, while we always hope for our retail respondents to report a change, they're nothing but honest, and many years they tell us the equivalent of “nothing to see here.”
Our 2019 report, however, brought us what we’ve been hoping to see for quite some time. Retailers have BIG plans for their stores. In fact, 63 percent of Retail Winners (those whose sales are outperforming the average) have major redesigns on the way (compared to only 43 percent of average and underperformers). Another 58 percent of retailers plan to open new stores in the near future, with 56 percent planning to open stores in entirely new markets, and 52 percent planning to replace existing stores with new formats.
We haven’t seen data like this since we started our annual Store Report.
Perhaps more exciting, however, is that retailers told us that it's technology that holds the answer to making stores — both new and old — matter. In fact, 68 percent say technology creates the competitive advantage they need to stay relevant (up a whopping 20 percent from 2018). The number is even higher for Retail Winners. In fact, Winners are anticipating that store employees will engage in more selling activities in the next two years — a nearly 2:1 ratio over their competitors — and 56 percent say that technology is also the key to making their store employees smarter.
The data goes on to inform us about a number of trends, and which ones retailers do — or don’t — see immediate value in. These topics range from “the cloud” for store technologies to Amazon Go. But at the heart of the research is a directional story we’ve been long wanting to hear. Retailers previously had told us that stores are going to have to retain their traditional role, but now they see tremendous opportunity to transform them into something different. In fact, one of the most encouraging points taken from the survey is that retailers now recognize the need for stores to serve as fulfillment centers for online orders. In years past, buy online, pick up in-store was nothing more than a talking point; now retailers see it as a tremendous profit opportunity.
It’s going to be a big year for brick-and-mortar stores. To learn more, download the full 2019 RSR Store Report.
Steve Rowen is a managing partner at Retail Systems Research, the only research company run by retailers for the retail industry.
Related story: Stores, Talent, Purpose: Inside EVEREVE's Growth Strategy
Steve Rowen is a managing partner at Retail Systems Research, the only research company run by retailers for the retail industry. RSR provides insight into business and technology challenges facing the extended retail industry, and thought leadership and advice on navigating these challenges for specific companies and the industry at large.