But Md. Retailers remain cautiously optimistic.
Annapolis, Md (KM). Holiday sales across the country are expected to grow by 4.1% this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The Federation says sales have been increasing consistently over the past few years. “A lot of those projections have to do with on line sales increasing,” says Cailey Locklair Tolle, the President of the Maryland Retailers Association. “And that both certainly ordering directly from the internet, and the combination model that you’re seeing with brick and mortar as well, and those on line store orders are projected to double this year.”
The Maryland Retailers Association says most shopkeepers in the state are cautiously optimistic about sales during the holidays, mostly due to competition from on line retailers. But Tolle says many traditional retailers have developed strategies to be competitive in a world where a large number of people make purchases over the internet. She says one way is making a visit to a brick and mortar stores an experience for customers rather than just another trip to the store. “They can bring their family. There’s festival lighting; there’ light music; there’s food. You can spend a lot of time shopping in an environment,” she says.
Other ways include letting customers order a product on line, and pick it up in the store, which allows them to look around and find other items to purchase. “Brick and mortar are also working really, really had to blend that on line experience as well. And so that’s where that on line, direct to store delivery is happening, says Tolle.
She also says traditional retailers are trying to match the price of a product which is sold on line. “Price matching, typically, is not something you’ll see for super, super deals like Black Friday. But you are seeing more and more price matching where you can walk in and say ‘hey, I saw this on Amazon for this price. Here it is’ and the store will do that for you,” says Tolle.
Traditional retailers are also changing how products travel from the manufacturer to customers’ hands. “A lot of inventory was going to warehouses across the country,” says Tolle. “Now, there moving faster store-to-store kind of model so consumers can get their hands on something, instantaneously.”
A recent US Supreme Court ruling allowing states to charge sales tax on merchandise sold by out-of-state retailers is a big help, according to Tolle. “Any e-tailer, if you will, that’s out of state, that sells over $100,000 or more 250 transactions into the state of Maryland must now collect and remit sales tax in the state,” Tolle says. She says this will help level the playing field for brick and mortar retailers.
Despite this strong competition from on line retailers, Tolle says traditional retailers aren’t going away. “By no means is brick and mortar dead,” she says. “When you look at the national picture of sales, brick and mortar sales still are 90% of all retail sales that are going on. On line is just 10%”
Holiday shopping accounts for more than 25% of annual sales for traditional retailers.
By Kevin McManus