Smart chain stores will keep their doors open

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Smart chain stores will keep their doors open

By David Crist - 12/11/2019
David Crist
David Crist

The news on retail store openings and closings continues to make headlines. 

Some observers predict a continued march toward empty stores and malls in favor of online shopping, while others focus on the innovative new retail concepts, in-store refresh initiatives, and specialty stores positioning for new growth. There’s a consensus though - the retail landscape is changing dramatically - and today’s chain store retailers will have to deliver a more positive shopping experience to stay in the game. 

While there will always be varying perspectives on the news, we need to take a balanced view. For example, IHL’s retail analyst Greg Buzek made headlines of his own with a different take on conclusions from a widely publicized retail report that predicted thousands of store closings in coming years. 

While Buzek praised the historical sales data used to make the dim predictions, he raised serious concerns that the report relied primarily on math, excluded current retail trends, and was written with an inherent bias toward online sales as the primary and preferred future of retail. Its only premise was if online sales go up, store numbers must decrease.  

And this ignores the greatest area of retail growth, which is stores serving as the fulfillment channel for online sales and that over 80% of all retail sales will be fulfilled with the help of local stores.  

On the positive side for in-store retailers, Buzek noted that “it is very rare for a well-run retail business that has adapted to changes in consumer trends, invested in technologies and has a reasonable balance sheet to have closed a sizable number of stores.”  

Smart stores – open doors
The “smart stores will stay open” prediction holds good insight. Keeping close tabs on consumer trends and investing in the right technology are strategies that many forward-thinking chain retailers are adapting right now. In the past 12 months, we’ve seen retailers of all types positioning to serve the new consumer.  

Store services draw a crowd
In addition to new stores opening their doors, smart retailers of all kinds are offering new “store within a store” experiences to better satisfy customers, as well as in-store services such as returns processing to draw online shoppers into the store. Other high-growth shopping trends that have an in-store component include “buy online and pick-up in store” (BOPIS) and “click and collect” (C&C). 

Boost store efficiency and customer experience with the right technology 
To boost store efficiency, many chain store retailers are placing a high priority on deploying newer technology to provide an improved in-store experience and seamless processes for shopping, check-out and returns.  

As new systems for store improvements are evaluated, technologies such as AI or IoT are often touted as must-haves. And while retail systems deploying these technologies hold promise, they can be expensive and require long, complex implementations. For retailers seeking to quickly implement changes that improve operations and experiences, the smartest place to start is also the simplest: barcode labeling. 

Implementing a barcode labeling system in retail is quick, easy and cost effective. Retailers will boost operational efficiency at checkout, on the sales floor, in the aisle, or even in the warehouse with the ability to print labels, receipts and tags on-demand. There are a wide range of uses in retail including:

•    Product labels and tags 
•    Shelf-edge labels and tags
•    Receipts
•    Mobile POS
•    Queue-busting receipts
•    Proof of purchase labeling
•    Online order/in-store pickup labeling (BOPIS, C&C)
•    Returns labeling
•    Invoices
•    Custom labels (paint, materials, and fabrics)
•    Inventory and price display compliance
•    Standalone labeling

One type of retail labeling solution with a fast path to payback is the popular quick deploy kit, which gives retailers a turnkey, all-in-one system. Retailers can quickly realize the operational benefits of using compact, lightweight mobile label printers for fast printing in-aisle or across the showroom floor, as well as take advantage of stationary printer options for store counter or back-of-store needs. 

Another important consideration for retailers seeking a smooth transition is to choose systems that are out-of-the-box ready and stand-alone, so there is no need for POS, ERP or price book interfaces. That way, sales associates, warehouse employees or other staff can simply load SKU, UPC or menu item files directly into the printer from a mobile device or desktop, connect a USB scanner via host port or Bluetooth, scan barcodes and print. 

Retail sunset or reinvigoration? 
Retail news will always make headlines. And while it’s safe to say that some stores will close and sunset, new stores and chains in exciting new categories are continuing to open up shop and thrive. Those retailers with an eye on deploying technology for peak operational efficiency and to support new in-store experiences will be best positioned to keep cash registers rolling to ring up profits. 

David Crist is president of Brother Mobile Solutions Inc.

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