The Globe and Mail Former Retailing Reporter Marina Strauss On The Future Of Brick and Mortar Retail

This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of Brick and Mortar Retail series featuring interviews with industry experts and thought leaders with the goal of providing actionable insights that can help brick and mortar retailers prepare for what lies ahead.  

The following is an interview we had with Marina Strauss, The Globe and Mail Former Retailing Reporter and Board member of the Canadian Journalism Foundation.

What are the 3-5 top trends that will shape brick and mortar retail in 2021?

MS: A big bricks-and-mortar retail trend in 2021 will be keeping shoppers and customers safe from Covid-19, having proper protocol, limiting the number of shoppers, and having hand sanitizer and masks available. Most shoppers still will want to protect themselves, even when the new vaccines start to be administered. Physical stores will cut back on the variety of products they carry and will shift many items to online only. And many retailers will shut their weakest physical stores and focus on fewer, high-profile stores. Many retailers will be forced into bankruptcy and close or scale back operations significantly.

What technologies will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021?

MS: Contactless payment and mobile shopping will have the biggest impact on brick and mortar retail in 2021 as well as technologies tied to e-commerce. Retailers will have to make the transition to allowing buy online easily and efficiently so that consumers can shop where, when, and how they want to shop.

What should brick and mortar retailers be doing now to prepare for 2021?

MS: Physical stores need to prepare for 2021 by paring down their offerings and deciding what they will sell in their bricks-and-mortar stores and what they will offer online, where they can stock a larger assortment. Physical stores should have as little clutter as possible, allowing shoppers to see and experience items easily and clearly. Merchants should be preparing by assessing which products are worth continuing to offer and which should be eliminated. Physical stores need to prepare to offer contactless payment.  

In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, what's the future of brick and mortar retail look like?

MS: The future of brick-and-mortar retail is grim, many stores and retailers will not survive the pandemic – they probably wouldn’t have survived long term anyway, but the health crisis is accelerating their demise. Only the strongest and most meaningful retailers will survive – retailers that truly serve a purpose and operate efficiently. Malls and store fronts will consist of more non-traditional retail uses, including health services and residential units. Brick-and-mortar stores will allow customers to shop online from the physical stores, with few products stocked on the premises. And many will transform into essentially distribution centres where customers can pick up their orders.