Why People Still Aren’t Flocking to Stores in 2017

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Unfortunately, the first week of 2017 didn’t usher in a new wave of excitement around hitting brick-and-mortar stores.

According to the latest data from ShopperTrak’s Market Intelligence product, total U.S. retail visits were down 5.8 percent year-over-year during January’s first seven days. The results — which were roughly in line with expectations — were a significant deceleration from the same period last year, when traffic edged upward 2.7 percent.

According to Cowen & Co. analyst John Kernan, a snowstorm that hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions last weekend likely impacted store traffic. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that store traffic across the U.S. has struggled to turn positive for months. As Kernan also pointed out, December’s traffic declined 9.6 percent year-over-year, making it the worst traffic month of 2016.

According to experts, retail’s problems continue to boil down consumers’ mounting propensity to choose experience over product. And getting shoppers to enter a store — one that doesn’t offer something more than product — when they can simply order most of their footwear and apparel needs online, is becoming a huge problem.

Stores are going to really have to enhance the experience and do a better job of bringing the excitement of the product to the consumer [in 2017],” The NPD Group’s retail-industry analyst Marshal Cohen told FN in December.

Even the highly acclaimed omnichannel initiatives that fashion firms have been raving about for the past three years are losing their luster among today’s experience-seeking consumers, according to Cohen.

The fact that [companies] tried to use [omnichannel] as the answer for everything in retail was the scariest thing to me about 2016,” Cohen said. “They’re not doing anything … 2017 is really going to be about a few brands and retailers that take the leap and jump forward and get engaged with the consumers.”

What’s more: B. Riley & Co. LLC analyst Jeff Van Sinderen predicted that the 2017 will bring with it more store closures as retailers, strapped with high-rents, scramble to cut costs and protect their bottom lines.

[Since] business will continue to shift to e-commerce, brands/retailers increasingly need to have a reason for the customer to buy from them,” Van Sinderen said. “Differentiation is what will drive traffic and conversion.”

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