The augmented reality Pokemon Go phenomenon has brought people in droves off their sofas and into the streets, including shops.

Some bemused retailers must wish that their stores could draw such footfall permanently.

But despite the consumer shifts resulting from the popularity of all things digital, exemplified by the Pokemon Go sensation, shops remain at the very heart of retail.

Research this week from Verdict and property company British Land showed that bricks-and-mortar stores play a part at some point in 89% of all retail sales.

“Bricks-and-mortar stores play a part at some point in 89% of all retail sales”

George MacDonald

Technology is creating opportunity rather than a threat. Sales made online after browsing in store, and click-and-collect, are estimated to boost shop sales by 5%.

Changing roles

But the role of the shop is changing and is likely to alter further.

If shops are increasingly becoming browsing spots and collection points, it throws up a host of questions about how they may be best used.

For some, the questions will be fundamental. Are stores too big, resulting in excess space for which new purpose must be found?

For many, however, the issue will be how to best adapt shops to cater for changes in consumer habits.

If shops are places in which to browse, is the most appropriate and relevant assortment being displayed in order to stimulate a purchase?

“If stores are increasingly collection points, what opportunities are there to win an add-on sale when the customer visits?”

George MacDonald

Are staff knowledgeable enough to provide the information and service that will close a sale once the shopper is back home on their sofa and pondering what to buy?

If stores are increasingly collection points, what opportunities are there to win an add-on sale when the customer visits? What goods and services are likely to perform well in such locations?

And are technological innovations really in tune with how customers behave? Pokemon Go is evidence yet again of the power of the smartphone, which must surely now be at the heart of how retailers think about consumers.

Such thinking could make a difference to often hard-pressed retailers. The latest footfall data from the BRC and Springboard showed a steep fall last month.

Once again, high streets were the poorest performing retail locations. However, out-of-town footfall was also down for the first time in almost three years. The data only covered one month but still showed the need for retailers to build business models that are as resilient as possible.

The Verdict study showed that, perhaps surprisingly, 16 to 24 year olds and 25 to 34 year olds were “the most attached to stores”.

That provides reassurance that, if the strengths of technology and stores are combined to best effect, bricks and mortar will be at the heart of retail long after Pokemon Go has been superseded by the next digital wave.