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With the demise of so many retailers in Canada lately it’s hard to stay positive about the future of bricks and mortar retailing.

We have seen brands like Guess, Danier, Ben Moss, Smart Set, Jacob, Staples and many others closing many, if not all of their doors. This trend is calling for a shift in how we sell in-store and I for one think this is a good thing. What we need to remember is that times change and those who don’t change with the times and start creating a customer experience will fail.

Who can forget Blockbuster Video?

They were top of the heap, only to topple to digital providers like Netflix by holding firm to their, then existing business model. Consumers did not stop watching movies, they just changed how they consumed them. So now, it’s either reinvent or run the risk of being left behind.

Customer Experience

A major challenge for bricks and mortar retailers is that consumers today are more prone to spend on experiences, such as vacations and fine dining, than on material objects. This is especially true of the Millennial demographic. So how do we bring the idea of true customer experience to our bricks and mortar retail environments?

Companies like Cabela’s have figured it out. They are true destination stores for outdoor enthusiasts that provide an entertaining customer experience. Customers can try different fishing equipment with 200 reels to test at their “Reel Bar”. They also have an indoor archery range. These are just a couple of the novel customer experiences they provide. Cabela’s is a truly unique shopping experience. 

IMAGES: Creating experiences at Cabela’s Canada, The World’s Foremost Outfitter.

Cabela’s has even been reviewed on Trip Advisor. Think about that. Trip Advisor is for holidays and entertainment experiences and Cabela’s is being reviewed as a place to visit for enjoyment, not just shopping.

Since employing these experiences Cabela’s revenue  from retail store sales has increased 7.6% to $564.1 million. However their internet and catalog sales has decreased 10.2%.

Online Retailers

In the last few years, some 20 online companies in the US have launched bricks and mortar stores, to create closer customer relations through in person customer experience, and yes, boost online traffic and sales. Amazon aside, these include mostly specialty and clothing stores such as Warby Parker, Bonobos, Birchbox and Casper.

IMAGES: Birchbox went from exclusively online to launching bricks & mortar.

If you can create a compelling customer experience and relationship with the consumer, there’s an opportunity to be a healthy retailer, whether you are in-store, online, or both.


Hayley Ballinger, Principal & Creative Director. Hayley has a passion for asking the questions that reveal buried opportunities. 

Read more here about customer experience.

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