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Yellow Pages Report: Canada’s Retail Is At A Crossroad

Retail in Canada is torn between in-store and digital possibilities.

According to a recent Yellow Pages report, “Cities as Warehouses: The Survival of Main Street Retail in a Digital World,” Canadian retail is evolving, with more Canadians shopping online and retailers not jumping on the bandwagon as much.

The report showed that digital could be a possibility to grow Canada’s retail sector and that the “cities and warehouses” concept might be a solution for Canadian retail’s indecisiveness.

It was reported that 89 percent of Canadians are making digital purchases and 85 percent of buyers do prior research online. On the contrary, 53 percent of retailers don’t believe they are competing with online retail, only 36 percent of retailers plan to grow online investment by 2018 and 18 percent of retailers still don’t have an online presence.

Three key points about Canadian retail’s future were included in the report. E-commerce is changing Canada’s retail scene and while consumers keep shopping more, local retailers can’t keep up. Many Canadian retailers also are not prepared to build up their digital presences, which is required to remain a competitive edge in Canada’s rapidly changing economy. Collaboration also may be a solution to Canada’s Retail dilemma of changing consumer demands and marketplaces.

“For a retailer, missing out on digital transformation would be a long slow decline. When you get to that point, you can’t just turn a corner and suddenly be in the digital age,” said Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer.

Fortunately, there may be a solution for Canadian retailers-the “Cities as Warehouses” concept. Using geo-localization technology, a collection of local retailers, their inventories and prices online would be featured on one aggregated and seamless digital platform. This local digital marketplace would also allow consumers to filter searches nationally, regionally, by city and by neighborhood. The “Cities as Warehouses” concept mimics store inventories, yet embraces growing e-commerce demands. Consumers get the digital experience and are able to personally interact with stores at the same time.

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HEC Montreal Professor Jacques Nantel spoke about how logistics will be Canadian retail’s future challenge as well.

“The technology battle is over; the next retail battle is logistical. Even though solutions like Amazon Fulfillment are interesting for large manufacturers, they aren’t appropriate for small retailers. However, developing a logistical capacity locally and making available shared inventory…that is a huge opportunity,” he said.