Canadian retail sales are expected to grow by 3.5% this holiday season, trumpet the temperature takers at EY. Lower gas prices, contracted cross-border shopping, the federal middle-class tax cut and arguably buoyant consumer confidence all spell looming good fortune for Canadian retailers. But unless you’re a mindfully integrated version of same, the good news hits a wall at the mall.
According to Colliers International’s National Retail Report Canada, online sales in this country are robust enough to take a serious bite out of the retail activity of more conventional environments. The $23 billion in “non-store retail sales” in 2014—4.7% of the total—represents the equivalent of what might be sold in all the shopping centres in Halifax, Victoria, Ottawa and Vancouver combined (working with the assumption that the average brick-and-mortar Canadian retailer achieves sales productivity of $300 per square foot).
Omnichannel sales are growing at a rate three times that of traditional retail and that, says says James Smerdon, vice-president and director of retail consulting with Colliers, and the author of the report, is “worrying.”
The trick to rising above it, the EY report concludes, is for retailers to employ a genuine cross-channel strategy that stitches the disparate retail offerings seamlessly. Convergence, after all, is the third of the much-ballyhooed three Cs of retail (along with convenience and customized offerings).
Daniel Baer, EY partner and national retail and consumer products leader, offers these tips for retailers:
- Offer a consistent retail experience across all channels, from e-mail promotion to mobile, store and online.
- While using mobile technology is a growing trend, consumers spend the most in stores, and demand an exceptional store experience.
- Store apps can draw customers, and serve as an excellent tool for retailers’ engagement with shoppers.
“Retailers must make shopping easy by offering multiple ways to buy and return products,” says Baer. He urges stores to remember mobile in the modern shopping environment, but not at the expense of compelling draws to physical locations.