As we all know, online shopping is growing and growing and doesn't seem to have any intention of slowing down.
As far as the future of big stores, and namely, the larger department stores, I think there are 3 good options moving forward;
Option One: Streamline the online and instore buying process.
Make the shopping experience the one and the same, online or in store. How? I have read about several stores already adapting a few innovative solutions to this. Adding QR codes to swing tags / barcodes to inform customers the price or when the item will go on sale - even a small inventory of where the dress, for example, is stocked, what other local stores, the quantity etc. Stores could be diligent in keeping every item thats in store - online as well, and when customers shop online and add items to their 'shopping cart' if they plan on coming into the store to try it on, the items can literally be put aside for them and be ready in their very own 'shopping cart' in store too. Virtual and interactive tours of the store on the website as well, making the website a 'front' for the store and vice versa.
When the customer shops with a certain brand they want the experience and the brand integrity to be the one and the same. A great article on this concept here: http://mashable.com/2013/06/09/retail-store-future/
Option Two: A concession run department store. (stores-within-a-store)
This is already what other countries are doing and these are a few quick reasons why; all the brands / stores staff their own areas, they pay rent and the department store makes a small percentage off the top of each item sold. Having concession stores also allows for more freedom in special orders, transferring stock store to store and having each staff member dressed and wearing their own brand (one of the best ways to sell and display garments - have it on an actual person!) Product knowledge is at its best as well.
This one is also a good option for personal shoppers! They can easily guide you between the brands and give their clients an experience then backed by support from staff working directly for the brand.
Does this make sense? Let Camilla staff run Camilla, let Gucci staff run the Gucci section, and let Hugo Boss staff the Hugo Boss fitout.
Option Three: Compartmentalise the entire store.
This is a simple one and I'll break it down for you like this, out all jackets with jackets, dresses with dresses and shoes with shoes, no matter what the brand.
Get rid of the time consuming manner that customers have to wander multiple floors to find a complete outfit, through all the different brands and their own selection of accessories, jeans etc. Most department stores have each individual brand with their own shirts, jeans, accessories, scarves, shoes in each section. Take the frustration out of it I say!
No mater what brand it is, put all the denim in one section, from petities to plus size. Give customers a straight-out jeanery department - creating destination shopping within the store.
So there it is, my thoughts on what department stores should do moving forward - if you've read all this, well done! Sorry for how many times the word 'brand' had to be written! (It was only 11!)
Whats your opinion>? Do you think any of these would work?