No single event attracts more retail real estate aficionados than the International Council of Shopping Centre’s RECon convention, which drew roughly 37,000 people to Las Vegas May 20-23 to discuss deals and the latest retail trends.
It stands to reason, then, that the primary topics of conversation at RECon are those of most importance to the shopping centre industry, the factors driving it forward. In my meetings with clients, analysts and media at RECon, three topics emerged most often. These are the industry’s focal points this year.
Pure-play online retailers are experimenting in increasing numbers with opening physical stores to enhance their brands. Conversely, nearly all retailers born of bricks and mortar have expanded into e-commerce.
While retailers understand the importance of embracing an omnichannel approach, few are able to stay in the black while doing so. A 2017 survey of 350 major retailers by JDA and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that only 10 percent could fulfil omnichannel demand profitably.
The secret to a seamless and profitable omnichannel network is a Holy Grail of striking the right balance of in-store and online operations, knowing your existing and potential customers and pinpointing the best location for your stores and your distribution centres. And, as with any true conundrum, the answer is different for each company.
Among the many important steps of understanding omnichannel retailing is getting a firm grasp on e-commerce and its trajectory. For example, while e-commerce as a whole has grown at a heady 15 percent clip each year since 2010, it’s important to understand various components of that growth. Specifically, mobile commerce – browsing and purchasing goods on smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices – is expected to account for more than half of e-commerce by 2021, according to research firm eMarketer.
Another important guidepost in the road ahead for omnichannel retailers: The rate of e-commerce penetration of various retail categories. It’s no secret that e-commerce has made massive inroads into categories such as books, electronics, small appliances, office products and computers. Meanwhile, its impact is much less for retailers of food and beverage, home-improvement goods, over-the-counter drugs and furniture.