The future of bricks and mortar stores


In the increasingly competitive market of today, fashion brands really need to showcase a distinct personality and engage their consumer base. With online shopping growing as a market and some extremely long lasting bricks and mortar brands recently going into liquidation – what is the future for our high streets? Can brands still survive without an online store and on the flip side can online-only retailers continue to draw in their customers – despite their inevitable disadvantages?

It’s clear that the physical shopping market has been hit in some ways. With issues like the recession and the rise of the budget chain overwhelming independent businesses – the high streets within the UK often look scarce. Closing down banners seem to make a regular appearance and more businesses seem to come and go than ever before. Recently BHS, who were once a giant in the market, closed down after eighty-eight years in business. They were placed into administration in March but failed to find a new buyer. The reason for their demise could be placed on poor marketing and management, a lack of versatility in the brand or competition from lower priced stores and E-commerce websites. Faith, Woolworths, JJB Sports, Littlewoods, Republic: just a handful of the many collapsed brands over the last few years. Then there are also stores like HMV. HMV stands as one of the last remaining franchises in the entertainment market but even they have lost an extreme quantity of their bricks and mortar stores. They only just bounced back from complete closure. With the music market, the route of failure could come from competition such as megastore Amazon. However, the music market has also taken a complete digital reign with streaming services cancelling out physicals.



It’s undoubtable that the rise of online shopping is still very much a thing. Take ASOS as an example. The retailer reported a 30 percent sales rise in the four months leading up to June this year. What makes ASOS such a success is their humongous stock range and their reasonable pricing. They also really invest in making a loyal connection with their consumer. They offer Premier delivery which allows customers to pay £9.95 a year for free next day delivery, free returns and a new ASOS A-List scheme which rewards loyal customers with £5 vouchers. ASOS are a retailer that know their weaknesses. They have the disadvantage of not allowing customers to physically see and feel the clothing as well as a barricade in the customer service experience. However, they have proven to have remained relevant, fresh and engaging with their consumer. They can quickly change things up that bricks and mortar stores simply cannot. They have crafted a completely consistent social media presence and remained at the top of their game.




An interesting case is that of Missguided, who launched in 2009. They have completely hit targets and like ASOS, created a social media personality. Missguided are well known for their on-brand advertisements as well as their loyal consumer base. However, although Missguided began as an online only giant – they are now looking into store openings. Last year, they opened a successful concession store in Selfridges and now they are gearing up to open their first ever store in Westfield. In a market where this move could be a risk – it is being met with excitement.


Bricks & mortar shops can definitely not be ruled out – despite the collapsing of some. Budget retailers like Primark are worth looking into during this debate. Primark have a huge impact on the physical retail market. Shopping in Primark is seen as a journey to find low prices and buy in bulk. It’s an experience that no ecommerce website can compete with. Would it be damaging if Primark were to open up online? The answer to that is unknown but it could be quite possible. Primark are extremely low cost and having an online launch would add costs for warehouses, distribution and delivery. They would also have to rebrand themselves in a way to keep with with online leaders. Physical stores, however, have the advantage of captivating the consumer with the senses. Strong visual merchandising and a well-crafted atmosphere can draw in consumer focus in a way that is simply not possible for an e-commerce website.




It’s clear that although the bricks and mortar market has crumbled for some retailers – it’s most definitely not going away. From experiencing Oxford Street to making a day out of shopping with friends, physical stores have become a part of society. However, e-commerce is something not to be ignored. Giants like ASOS are at the top of their game and if played well can generate an extremely large revenue. Once established, they can meet the smartphone-obsessed generation instantly and build a loyal following. Overall, both sides of the spectrum remain successful and we live in a world where both can currently co-exist. It comes down to how each retailer positions themselves within the market. Both physical and online show weakness yet both have huge success stories. Each brand is different and it is up to them to truly work out how they can survive on the high-street, online or if they play their cards right – on both.


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Words: Jamie Cartwright


Tags: #retail #fashion #ecommerce


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