As a new year begins, I bring you some comforting news: Physical retail is not dead. Nor is it dying. Nor, very significantly, is it being abandoned by Millennials, those much-discussed consumers that are turning the world on its head, or so it is said.
This good news comes to us from the respected National Retail Federation, and design guru Connie Post shared some of the highlights at the recent Furniture Today Leadership Conference.
The conference, attended by a bevy of top mattress and sleep accessory producers and retailers, delivered several endorsements of the vitality of brick-and-mortar retailing. One came from Post herself, who has spent a career bringing excitement and fun to home furnishings stores with her fresh and innovative designs.
“New always wins,” Post said at the conference, repeating one of her design mantras. That point was hammered home as Post showed us room after room of new designs that injected energy into furniture and mattress departments.
The NRF research shared by Post notes that younger consumers embrace physical retail when it offers a new experience or is more convenient.
The research looked at Millennial and Gen Z consumers (Gen Z is the generation that follows Millennials) and found that about half of them are shopping physical stores more than they were a year ago. About one-third of those consumers said they are visiting physical stores at about the same pace as a year ago.
Only 17% of the Millennial/Gen Z respondents say they are visiting physical stores less often than they did a year ago, the NRF research says.
These findings refute the notion that most Millennials are abandoning physical stores and doing most of their buying online, and that’s good news for the mattress industry, where brick-and-mortar sales make up the vast majority of the retail business.
Why are Millennial/Gen Z consumers stepping up their visits to physical stores? The top reason is that a new retail store or shopping center has opened near them (cited by 52% of the younger consumers). But it’s interesting that 45% of those consumers say they are visiting stores more often than in the past to pick up items they bought online, a click-and-brick model. One opportunity with those consumers is to see if those consumers might want to pick up something else when they arrive at the store.
So, as we stand at the starting line for a new year, we can be confident that in an industry that is undergoing rapid change, we aren’t losing all of those younger, tech-savvy consumers to the Internet.
Make no mistake about it, the online world is growing in importance. But it’s nice to know that many Millennials are actually spending more time in stores now than they were a year ago, for a number of reasons.
A good New Year’s resolution would be to spruce up those mattress stores and departments, making them more inviting to consumers of all ages.