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DRIVING CHANGE IN STORES

Have you noticed? Though many stores seem monolithic and slow to change, in fact they are evolving more rapidly than ever before. From new technology, e.g., iBeacons, interactive kiosks, touchscreens, personalized messaging on mobile devices, self-serve checkout, to new formats, stores keep changing right before our eyes.

One such environment is the US automotive retailer. Car sales have been robust as have dealership earnings. Many independent dealers are being snapped up by larger companies, like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway that just bought the 81-store Van Tuyl Group last month. According to The Banks Report, 324 dealers changed hands in 2014, up 60% from 2013. Since 2009, the number of retail outlets has fallen 13% to 17,875, according to the Wall Street Journal.

One key driver – pun intended – of this wave of sales is the changing habits of car shoppers. Dealers are adapting and investing in showrooms, internet sales specialists and in-store technology to serve this new shopper. The internet plays a central role as people research options, solicit offers and consider purchases.

When it comes time to actually BUY, most shoppers – yes, even Millennials – still want to sit behind the wheel, test drive the vehicle, consider the color palette with their own eyes, listen to the audio system and drive a car off the lot. The point of purchase remains the in-store experience for big-ticket items like cars as well as what kind of lipstick, deli meat or greeting card to buy.