Across the nation, brick and mortar retail stores are closing their doors. Recently, Macy’s announced it will close one hundred stores by the end of next year. That’s 15% of the department store’s locations. Kohl’s is closing 18 under-performing sites. J.C. Penney plans to close 7 stores on top of 74 they've closed over the last two years. Earlier this year, Sears announced the closing of 50 stores. All victims of a huge surge in online sales.

In Boston today, most shoppers said they still like to go to brick and mortar stores, but e-commerce has still surged in popularity. The future is troubling in-store shopping.

Vice President of Boston Retail Partners Jeff Neville (@BRPConsulting) and President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Jon Hurst (@JonHurstRAM) discuss how sellers are transforming their shops to get you back in store.

Can old fashioned retail survive without a leveled playing field? Jon Hurst thinks that Macy's and other physical stores are adjusting to reality, but will have to cut back on costs. He says, "[Brick and mortar stores] are going to need to make sure they're serving customers the way they need to be served, and a lot of that's online."

Jeff Neville explains that “The customer has a unique set of expectations now. All the technology changes with smartphones, and with online shopping.” The larger brick and mortar stores are being forced to adjust their sales model to keep up with expanded customer expectation in the age of Amazon.

Providing distinctive experiences is a key aspect of attracting buyers back to the physical retailers. Jon Hurst says, "The one thing that the stores will always have that's very hard to duplicate online is the impulse buy." Hurst argues that physical stores need to nurture customers by giving them more reasons to come inside, whether it's entertainment or food.

Jeff Neville explains that smaller, regional retailers are also able to provide a broader set of assortment. He says, “They’re providing a community of experience whether it's nighttime runs or whether it's building a community through social integration." Training and educational investment in workers has also become more important to physical stores.

Decisions in the Statehouse also significantly impact sales for physical retailers. If brick and mortar stores are going to keep their businesses running, Jon Hurst argues that legislators will need to level the playing field for all types of sellers. He says, "The sales tax should apply the same way, whether you're online or in store." 

Jeff Neville agrees that the legislatures failure to regulate online stores equally is problematic. He wrapped up the discussion noting that, "We're seeing from our client base less conversation about sales tax as a competitive disadvantage and more conversation about how can we engage the customer."