I have spent the better part of the last four months thinking about the future of retail – and I am not alone. Is this pandemic the end of brick and mortal retail? Will consumers return to stores? Is online forever the path to purchase? Is Amazon really going to take over the world? These are just some of the questions swirling around in my head.
Yesterday, I lived these questions as a consumer, as a shopper. A few things about my shopping and buying patterns to put yesterday’s experience into context. I am not an avid shopper. I buy quality over quantity. I have never liked malls. I am highly loyal to a few stores I love. The last time that I was in a (non grocery) store was March 4th and I can’t remember the last time I went shopping with a girlfriend.
Yesterday, I went shopping with a girlfriend. She took me to her favorite store in Tinos, Karybu. I was so excited about this girlfriend shopping expedition that I dressed up and did my hair. We browsed, chatted with the owner (who happens to be from Basel Switzerland), compared our preferences in earrings, and I bought a (surprise) gift for my husband. We had the best time. Yes we were wearing masks. Yes we social distanced. Yes one of the sales associates was keeping track of the customer count in the boutique. And, it was amazing. It lifted my spirits. It was nothing I could have experienced online.
I had the same feeling as I did a couple of weeks ago, on July 23 rd , which was my first return to a brick and mortar non grocery store since March 4th (albeit by myself). I walked in to Apostrophe in Geneva, Switzerland, my absolutely favorite clothing store, where I have been shopping during each Geneva visit for 15+ years. I did not enter this store with a specific need in mind – it was more of a ritual, and the opportunity to speak with the lovely boutique manager about her pandemic experience. And, I bought a dress. A complete impulse buy. A dress completely opposite to every dress in my closet – patterned and colorful. A dress the manager (who knows me and my black wardrobe) picked for me, promising me that it looked better on than on the hanger and that it was made for me. I decided to trust her – and she was right. I wore it to my sister’s rehearsal dinner and received more compliments than I knew what to do with. It may
be my favorite dress I have ever owned. I never would have purchased this online.
Online shopping will never go away. Neither will brick and mortar shopping. The “in real life” experience matters. The discovery matters. The human connection matters.