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US analysts: in-store shopping is still needed but retail is going be ‘completely reimagined’


US tackle dealers will take heart from news that consumers are returning to in-store shopping, despite the continuance of the COVID pandemic.

But they will have to think harder about how to attract people through their doors.

Data from Zenreach, a marketing technology company for brick and mortar businesses, shows that in-store visits have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the year and are up 28.5% since the start of 2021 and up 12.5% compared to the same time last month.

Zenreach also revealed the country’s top ten locations where in-store shopping has peaked. Data shows that Florida, the most popular fishing state, recorded the highest activity, while Nevada and several Texas cities, including Houston and Fort Worth, also made the top ten.

In-store shopping trends have now hit an inflection point regarding year-over-year shop visits. In-store visits had begun to dip at this stage last year because of the growing pandemic, but are now above where they were relative to 2020. The positive shift is a big win for the retail industry after being impacted so severely by the pandemic, reports S&P Global.

Consumers appear ready to go back to stores. Almost 50% surveyed by 451 Research in the first quarter said they plan to ‘immediately’ visit retail shops once restrictions are lifted (see chart).

Tackle dealers might also learn from major US retailers who are launching new experiences to lure consumers back to stores as the economy reopens and pandemic-fuelled online sales growth is expected to slow.

US e-commerce sales are expected to achieve $909 billion in 2021, up 13.7% from $799 billion last year, according to eMarketer. That compares to a 37% spike in 2020 as Americans increasingly turned to shopping online during lockdowns.

Analysts say that retailers are working to drive foot traffic with sales offers, promotions and brand partnerships. Dick’s Sporting Goods is hoping to increase footfall with a rock climbing wall and an outdoor sports field.

Target has partnered with Apple, Ulta Beauty and Walt Disney to showcase exclusive merchandise from those brands in hundreds of mini shops within Target locations. And Nordstrom has collaborated with home gym company Tonal to install work-out stations at 40 city department stores.

“Retail is going to be completely reimagined in the future to be much more experiential than it ever was in the past,” said Sheryl Kingstone, Head of Customer Experience & Commerce at 451, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Experts say the bottom line is that retailers will have to walk the tightrope between serving customers both digitally and physically post-COVID, said Kingstone. “The ability to do things like search online, look for things online, and then potentially go pick up in store, try on in store, reserve in store, is still an extremely important part of that overall consumer experience,” she said.

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