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Brick-and-Mortar Far From Dead: 91% of Holiday Shoppers Bought in Stores

Brick-and-mortar retailers can breathe a sigh of relief after all the ‘death of the store’ talk that filled much of 2015—91 percent of shoppers made purchases in physical stores for the holiday.

This holiday season may have been a bit of a disappointment for retailers, but shoppers still spent $754 on average and 73 percent spent the same or more than the year before, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Holiday Consumer Purchasing Trends study.

Despite all the talk about mobile’s growth in the season, brick-and-mortar still drove sales, largely due retailers’ extra tech advancements and consumers’ added savvy.

“Looking back at the holiday season, the major trend that emerged is the prevalence of the omnichannel consumer and the resulting convergence among brick and mortar and digital retail,” ICSC president and CEO Tom McGee, said. “The story of bricks vs. clicks is an old one. The story is now one of a shopper getting the best of both worlds, using online research and capabilities to inform physical purchases. The American consumer has sent a clear message that the physical store remains at the epicenter of the shopping experience.”

And the still sought after tactile experience was what drew most of those shoppers to stores. ICSC found that 32 percent of consumers frequented stores to see, feel and try on goods, 26 percent wanted the ability to browse and 24 percent wanted their stuff on the spot.

Some shoppers settled on stores to get their gifts because of the ease of returning and exchanging products in store—but with most retailers offering in-store returns and exchanges for online buys, this will hardly be one of brick-and-mortar’s biggest draws.

Mobile came in handy on multiple levels for today’s shrewd consumer, 60 percent used smartphones while shopping in stores for price comparisons, to check availability and to read product reviews. Fifty-six percent headed to stores having already researched a product, and some found what they wanted online and then went to stores to collect it.

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Thirty-two percent of shoppers on the hunt during the holiday used buy online, pick up in store, which was great for retailers since 69 percent also bought other items once in the store.

Gift cards were big for the season, with 62 percent of shoppers buying them and spending an average of $145. Fifty percent of the consumers surveyed said they received a gift card for the holidays, and though some retailers were banking on shoppers spending those gift cards this month and buying highly marked down winter merchandise to help clear inventory, 43 percent of shoppers said they’d spend their gift cards in February or later, followed by 39 percent who said they’d use them in January.