I am happy to report that the demise of brick-and-mortar stores has been greatly exaggerated, which we in retail already knew. 2021 retail openings are fast outpacing reported closures by 5.4 million square feet, according to Coresight Research data. In a recent survey conducted by Global Data, 44% of shoppers already feel comfortable enough to frequent shopping malls or plan to next month (14%). A resounding 59% are currently visiting physical stores for non-essential goods. Retail tech company Zenreach correlates this data, reporting a 44% increase in foot traffic to retail, restaurant and entertainment venues since the start of the year. With nearly eight out of 10 consumers eager to shop in a physical store for their fall fashion purchases, retailers are eagerly re-establishing their physical presence.

From Luxury to Laptops

High-end luxury retailer Louis Vuitton believes the future of retail will be mostly in-store, with online sales complementing the consumer experience. Its parent company recently launched the grand reopening of La Samaritaine, Paris’ historically iconic department store with over 360,000 square feet of retail and office space, a luxury hotel, social housing and a kindergarten.

Beauty brand Glossier’s “extremely vocal” clientele inspired the retailer to re-enter brick-and-mortar, opening stores in Seattle, Los Angeles and London this year, followed by New York City and other markets in 2022.

Tech companies are making a big splash with store openings. Google opened its flagship retail location in New York’s Chelsea Market, an interactive nirvana for Android users and Google enthusiasts. The 5,000 square foot store takes up an entire city block. This month Apple completed the reopening of its 511 stores worldwide, representing over 5.5 million square feet.

Shopping Conveniences

Nearly one in three new stores opening in the U.S. is a Dollar General, and the brand is on track to open 1,050 locations in 2021. The chain rose in popularity throughout the pandemic primarily due to its stores adjacent to suburban and rural shopping corridors.

Grocery is booming with several brands making a national play, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Aldi, Lidl and Trader Joe’s. In addition, Amazon rolled out its Fresh grocery store, the first full-size supermarket chain to feature Just Walk Out checkout-free technology, in its 20,000 square feet Bellevue, WA location.

The Way Back to In-Store

Although 63% are accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, 92.5% of global consumers reported by the BigCommerce-PayPal report prefer in-person shopping. In addition, meeting shoppers where they are, either online in their homes or brick-and-mortar locations in nearby cities and towns, as reported by the National League of Cities, supports the idea of “hybrid retail,” where brands offer multiple fulfillment possibilities and experiences to customers.

Although online sales are likely to take a hit, in-store sales growth is expected to remain positive throughout 2021. According to the National Retail Federation, this pivot in shopping behavior maximizes a seamless shopping experience with consumers willing to spend equally online and in-store, to the estimated tune between $4.44 trillion to $4.56 trillion in retail sales by the end of 2021.