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Leveraging Brick-and-Mortar Retail in 2023

Lila Margalit
April 11, 2023
Leveraging Brick-and-Mortar Retail in 2023

For consumers seeking the cheapest and easiest way to purchase a particular product, e-commerce channels like Amazon can be hard to beat. But even in today’s increasingly digital marketplace, brick-and-mortar retail has an important role to play. People love to shop with friends, to visit stores that excite their imaginations, and to explore new products in person. And retailers that can leverage their physical footprints to strengthen their brand and create memorable spaces that foster a sense of community will remain ahead of the pack.

We dove into the data to explore some of the ways that brick and mortar retailers are creating positive brand associations and successfully driving visits by making their stores great places to shop – and not just to buy. 

  1. DICK’s House of Sport: Calling All Sports Fans

Despite last year’s hit to discretionary spending, quarterly visits to DICK’s Sporting Goods outperformed pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022. And from its perch as a thriving category leader, the company has continued to innovate. In 2021 DICK’s launched its new House of Sport store format, designed to be a community hub for sports fans. The stores feature attractions like climbing walls, golf simulators, batting cages, and outdoor fields – and customers can book a wide variety of in-store services, from baseball glove steaming to individualized coaching sessions. 

And DICK’s “places to connect and play” are drawing the crowds. Between September 2022 and February 2023, DICK’s three House of Sport venues attracted, on average, between 112.7% and 126.6% more visits per venue than the chain did overall. And once shoppers arrived in-store, they tended to stay significantly longer. Given the success of the new format, it should come as no surprise that DICK’s plans to expand the model and open nineteen new House of Sport venues over the next two years.

  1. Buff City Soap: (Bath) Bombs Away!

Buff City Soap is another brand that has stepped into the role of a community hub – turning the simple process of buying soap into a fun experience for the whole family. The chain, which started off in 2014 with just one store, now boasts more than 250 locations nationwide. And while Buff City Soap’s all-natural, handcrafted products can be ordered online, the chain’s physical locations are more than just additional points of sale.

The chain’s venues, designed to be “fun, playful, and interactive,” are built around “makeries,” where people can place customized orders and then hang out and watch them being made from scratch. Shoppers can choose from a wide variety of scents available “on tap” – and while the adults are looking around, the kids can roll up their sleeves and decorate bath bombs. Customers can also schedule kids’ birthday parties and ladies’ nights out at the chain’s stores.

Buff City Soap’s plant-based offerings and accessible pricing strategy are in perfect alignment with today’s wellness- and value-oriented consumer market. And the brand’s exponential visit growth shows just how successful its community-based brick-and-mortar strategy has been. Since Q1 2019, visits to Buff City Soap have increased by more than 2000.0% – largely thanks to the chain’s significant expansion. But foot traffic data also suggests that the average number of visits to each of its venues has also increased, indicating that Buff City Soap has been able to grow its footprint without diluting the performance of its existing stores.

  1. Jungle Jim’s International Market: A Theme Park of Food 

But chains don’t necessarily have to be behemoths – or even to rapidly expand – in order to make the most of their brick-and-mortar presence. Jungle Jim’s International Market, an Ohio-based grocery store with just two locations, is a case in point. 

With its vast selection of specialty food products from around the globe, on-site wine and beer tasting bars, and famously over-the-top, wacky decor, Jungle Jim’s has been dubbed a “theme park of food.” Visitors to its Fairfield, OH location are greeted with a life-size zoo display outside the entrance, and both stores’ gigantic sales floors are decked out with animatronic characters, amusement park memorabilia, and other decorations that cultivate a carnival-like atmosphere. The chain’s unique vibe, extensive product selection, and in-store programing have positioned it both as a popular tourist destination and as a magnet for foodies.

And location intelligence data shows that there’s healthy demand for what Jungle Jim’s has to offer. Both stores experienced notable year-over-three-year foot traffic growth over the past several months, significantly outperforming the wider Ohio grocery sector. 

Comparing Jungle Jim’s International Market to nearby grocery stores also shows how the brand complements the offerings of more traditional supermarkets. Jungle Jim’s Cincinnati location, for example, boasts a much larger trade area and a higher share of weekend visitors than a leading nearby traditional grocery store – perhaps reflecting the chain’s special draw for tourists and others looking for something fun to do on their day off. The traditional grocery store location, on the other hand, has a greater share of loyal visitors, indicating that more of its customers view it as a place to do their regular weekly grocery shopping. But Jungle Jim’s also boasts a significant repeat customer base, showing that it too boasts satisfied shoppers coming back for more.

Key Takeaways

Even for brands that have an online presence, physical stores remain crucial venues for promoting brand awareness, facilitating product discovery, and more. And retailers that can draw crowds by appealing to shoppers’ sense of adventure and longing for social connection will be poised for success in 2023.

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