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From the Editor's Desk


I’ve never been a big fan of animation, particularly television cartoons, with one big exception: “The Jetsons.”

The show, a Space Age-styled counterpart to “The Flintstones,” took place in Orbit City, in the year 2062. It was a world of robot housekeepers, flying cars, push-button meals, digital diaries, holograms, video chats, touchscreen panels and lots of other high-tech gadgets. In one of my favorite episodes, Jane Jetson “tried on” dresses virtually, with her image projected on a pull-down screen in her bedroom.

Jane and her daughter Judy were both fashion-obsessed and spent a good deal of time at their local mall. Things looked a little different — for one thing, the shopping center was suspended in mid-air — but the intent was the same. “I love going to the store,” Jane said to her husband in one episode.

So do I, Jane. And so do a lot of other people. According to a new study by A.T. Kearney, stores remain at the heart of retailers’ relationships with consumers — even in an omnichannel world.

The report, “Recasting the Retail Store in Today’s Omnichannel World,” found that the physical store is the channel of choice across all ages — even Gen Y — and household income levels (from less than $25,000 per year to more than $100,000 per year).

But this is not to say that it’s business as usual as physical retailing heads into the future. As our cover story makes clear, brick-and-mortar retail has reached a tipping point in terms of the digital revolution — there is no ignoring the impact of the shift to an omnichannel environment. Just look at how new players like Hointer and venerable brands like Burberry are redefining the in-store experience.

How can retailers ensure that their physical channels remain viable? Integrating tools that integrate the offline experience with the physical space is already becoming a given. Industry experts also say that retailers should play up the notion of discovery and also provide exciting in-store environments that engage shoppers.

Ironically, brick-and-mortar’s biggest trump card — the best way to remain viable and win loyalty going forward — is also its most underutilized: providing personalized, one-on-on service.

More than 1,500 consumers rated in-store and online shopping attributes in WD Partners’ new study, “Amazon Can’t Do That.” Store associates came in last when it came to ranking in-store features by appeal and influence over purchase intent.

The reason, according to WD executive VP creative services Lee Peterson, was that consumers had been disappointed so many times, the expectation wasn’t even there anymore. And’s that where the opportunity remains for stores.

“Human beings are, and will always be, socially driven,” Peterson said. “It’s time for retailers — at least those that want to survive the coming rationalization the industry faces — to invest in the one asset online can never trump: people.”

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