Retailers can no longer rely on their stores alone to draw customers, as consumers are equally drawn to other channels, such as the world wide web and catalogs. That's the consensus of panelists during a session of the National Retail Federation's recent annual convention in New York City.
The most successful companies are the ones that can perfect all aspects of the business, according to panelists. "The consumer doesn't see our businesses as separate entities," says Linda LoRe, chief executive officer of the 136 unit Frederick's of Hollywood chain. "It's really the multichannel effort that's working for us."
One of the most important benefits for retailers also selling over the internet is the ability to display more product than a brick and mortar store has room for, points out Dennis Hernreich, executive vice president, CEO of Casual Male, which operates about 500 stores across the country.
The fashion preferences of customers (Casual Male specializes in big and tall men's apparel) may vary depending on locale, Hernreich notes. Shoppers in all locations can find a broader selection online or in a catalog, he explains.
A chain that continues to have most of its focus on its stores, however, is discounter Gordmans, which has about 60 units, mainly in the Midwest. "We're passionate about comparable store sales growth," says Jeff Gordman, the company's CEO. "We're really focused on brick and mortar retailing."
Gordman also acknowledges that online retailing is, "Easier said than done."
But, what hasn't changed in the industry is the importance of pleasing customers, LoRe counters. "The customer signs your paycheck," she says. "That customer is our whole reason for being. I work for them," she adds, pointing out that many customers increasingly want the convenience of researching products online, even if they end up making the purchase in the store.
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