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An article in yesterday's New York Times explains that brick-and-mortar stores are trying to fight their image of the "ugly stepsister" in comparison to online shopping. Retailers like Macy's, Nordstrom, Apple, The Container Store and Walmart have all been stepping up their game as of late to try and compete with the simplicity of point, click, purchase. The strategies include everything from designated online return areas to drive-through customer service centers.
Both Macy's and Nordstrom, though, are taking things one step further. Recently, both have added features to their websites that allow customers to search a specific store's inventory. In Nordstrom's case, if their website is sold out of an item it can be shipped to a customer from a brick-and-mortar location that carries it.
Sure, none of this is exactly rocket science, but John Thrailkill, the VP of stores for The Container Store, argues that at least it's making everybody's life a little bit easier. With their drive-through pick-up locations for online orders, customers can purchase their storage boxes whenever they want (say, at 2am), and pick them up when it's convenient. "Especially for that mom that's got kids in the car and is trying to run five errands today, this allows her to put us on her list with no additional pressure."
The flipside? Online retailers may feel the need to set up a physical presence, even if it's just a showroom-style environment that allows shoppers to check out the merchandise in person and still order it online. Retail consultant Alison Jatlow Levy argues: "You will definitely start to see online-only players open stores." Need proof? Look no further than Piperlime, Bonobos and Warby Parker.