Retail stores are reinventing themselves, drawing on the new technologies to fight back against the competition from e-commerce. Meanwhile some platform businesses, including notably online retail giant Amazon, now see some need to get back to a bricks-and-mortar approach. Simon Property Group, which manages close to 300 malls in the United States, has certainly got the message. Simon has launched The Edit, an ephemeral space for fledgling online retailers at a mall in New York City. Doing away with long leases, unaffordable rents and fixed floor space that can never be changed, this new concept is designed to be adaptable to the specific features of any given startup. On the one hand, this is a good way for shopping malls to attract new customers to unused space. On the other hand, it enables e-commerce newcomers to test out, for a period of one to six months, a new kind of sales approach, to raise their profile and allow their customers to handle their products in the real 3D. In the same vein, B8ta stores, which recently opened an outlet in San Francisco, is now showcasing and selling connected products that would otherwise mostly be available only online. However, it remains to be seen whether these initiatives are isolated forays or indications of a real trend – a return to bricks-and-mortar retail outlets.
By Sophia Qadiri