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The tables are turning

temple&websterIn 2011, I wrote an article in these columns titled, ‘Multi-channel may not win online war’. This drew a sharp response, with more than 50 comments from not only Australia, but further afield.

According to Barbara Thau from Forbes, “massive store closings will reshape retail landscape as online newbies take over locations”.

The closures are indeed significant in anyone’s language.

Radio Shack, 1784 closures; Wet Seal, 338; Body Central, 265; Deb Shops, 287; Office Depot/Office Max, 135; Delia’s, 92; Aéropostale, 50 to 75; Coach, 70; Abercrombie & Fitch, 60; Staples, 55; J.C. Penney, 40; and Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade, 28.

While these obsolete bricks and mortar stores are closing, the tables are turning and online retailers are opening bricks and mortar stores.

Online only merchants in the US that have made their mall debuts include beauty subscription service Birchbox, Rent the Runway, Bonobos, and Warby Parker, while several others are planning to open stores.

Amazon has just opened its first store, called Exclusives, on 34th St in Manhattan.

On our own doorstep, we see that Temple & Webster are possibly opening a physical store (see Inside Retail PREMIUM, December 12, 2014). It is certainly on its roadmap, and Shoes of Prey has opened at Bondi.

With the expectation (and reality) that online prices are lower compared to bricks and mortar, how are they going to do it?

As per my article on multi-channel, do they plan to have different ranges at higher prices, or will they divorce their bricks and mortar name from their online name?

The latter idea was ridiculed in 2011, but I believe that there is a significant retailer in Australia planning to do just that. Plus surprise, surprise, Amazon have done exactly this!

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

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