Nordstrom: full-line store sales down 1.2%, but up 22%. A new trend?

Cool article on Forbes about Nordstrom’s evolving strategy in retail; consider this paragraph especially:

It is very important to understand the customer’s need to find time to shop.  Nordstrom gets this.  Consumers, especially young working people, are less and less interested in store visits that require a drive in a car and a major allocation of time.  In contrast, the Internet – open 24 hours seven days a week – allows for a leisurely shopping experience at a personally convenient time.  However, until now, people have not shopped new fashions on the Internet. The Internet for many people has been about bargain hunting or the search for a specific item. Customers seldom take the time on the Internet to ask “what is new?”  There are few impulse shopping sprees except maybe on sites like Nordstrom’s Haute Look. The personal service of the Trunk  Club can be the answer since there is a online stylist providing the customer service previously found only in stores. Nordstrom, and other retailers, will have to find a counterpart for women that will offer the same intensive attention and service. (Customers can go to today and book an appointment with a stylist.)

That’s kind of a terribly-written paragraph, but the idea is there: basically, Nordstrom realizes that the future of shopping might be about people being able to shop at the time they want and navigate without crowds and driving and parking and all that. This is a little bit different for males and females — you could argue that for a percentage of females, shopping is still a social experience, so they want to go to malls, etc. — but the advantage of the Internet as a retailer from the get-go has been the flexibility aspect. (Amazon made themselves into a cultural icon off of that.)

The “digital” space, in general, has been slow to catch up to “conventional” spaces in the eyes of some people that still make decisions in organizations — consider ad spend on digital vs. television, for example — and there’s still a little bit of “Well, the Internet will do such-and-such…” (as opposed to “has done such-and-such”). In the same Forbes article, people from Forbes note that online sales could surpass 50% of the business within about 5-7 years. I’m sure it’s trending that way from places like Best Buy and Macy’s too, although I’m not sure how directly anyone would admit it. Having a physical brick-and-mortar anchor-type location is very easy to point to your boss and say, “Look at us. We’re branding!” But talking about the online space is a lot fuzzier for most people.

I don’t think physical shopping will ever die out for two reasons — the social aspect mentioned above, and also the day-of necessity. For example, I play in a co-ed over-30 soccer league right now. (Lord help me.) I forgot shin guards. I need to go buy some. Since I have a game tonight, I can’t order them online per se — maybe if Amazon’s Drone stuff gets up and running, but not right this second. Rather, I need to drive to Target or a similar store and get them there. That’s one thing that will keep brick-and-mortar around: immediate necessity. The Internet isn’t there yet, and may never be.

There’s also this study:

One of the most eye-opening findings: “Ninety percent of shoppers surveyed would prefer to buy in a brick-and-mortar store across demographic and age groups,” Mike Moriarty, a partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, and co-author of the study, told Forbes.

And for pretty simple reasons. “They love going out, shopping with people and touching stuff,” Moriarty said. “Everybody likes going shopping.”

Indeed, despite the hubbub over digital commerce, 94% of total retail sales are still generated at brick-and-mortar stores, according to data from market research firm eMarketer.

And don’t forget this on the “Big Data” side. Somewhat terrifying, but somewhat logical:

Ted Bauer