Bricks-and-mortar plus set to trigger newlifestyle
Recent reports that a new plaza offering a 24-hour shopping experience is enjoying brisk business in an eastern city has led me to expect that more such bricks-and-mortar outlets will spring up in other cities.
The Taihe Plaza, built at a cost 2 billion yuan ($299 million) and covering 1.5 million square meters in Fuzhou, with a population of 6 million and capital of Fujian province, received 2 million customers in the first three days of its opening in late 2015 and is attracting an average 100,000 customers a day.
Designed as a world-class comprehensive shopping center catering to customers of all ages, providing top brands and a rich variety of leisure products and services, its immersive shopping environment and business model may give inspiration to the traditional domestic retail industry, which is struggling to survive.
I would like to see this business model triggering a newlifestyle for urban residents in China.
Though more people are embracing e-commerce and becoming big spenders online, I believe the majority of consumers, myself included, have a deep-rooted passion for bricks-and-mortar shopping, which offers a zero-distance experience of touching, feeling, tasting, smelling, and naturally wearing the products.
I would like to spend part ofmy weekends buying things, window shopping or drinking coffee at a bar with nostalgic background music at a place like the Taihe Plaza, which has arrested the hearts of many addicted online buyers with its comprehensive shopping experience, according to local reports.
But maybe it is still early for the Taihe Plaza to call itself a worldclass outlet.
Some commercial outlets in developed countries, such as the NewYork’sHerald Square, have actually become lifestyle centers. Apart from providing comprehensive products and services, including entertainment, music bars, bookstores, hairdressers and restaurants, they have also adopted online-to-offline modes, or O2O, and virtual-reality and augmentedreality technologies, which enable their customers at the shop to view and even “wear” all the products of a certain brand.
By converging with e-commerce and latest technologies, bricks-andmortar stores can survive the intensifying competition with ecommerce. About 700 million Chinese urbanites, one-third of them middle class, will welcome such convergence.
Also, the central government has initiated a policy for social institutions and companies to ensure that their staff can fully enjoy their annual vacations, creating more leisure time and demand. These conditions will make people thirsty for new style weekends that combine shopping and enjoying various services.
The booming of e-commerce is blamed for the bankruptcy of thousands of big and small physical stores or shopping malls, including overseas retail brands.
A 2012 CCTV debate on e-commerce between JackMa, chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba GroupHolding Ltd, andWang Jianlin, chairman of DalianWangda Group, China’s leading property developer and retailer, highlighted the fight that is going in depth between e-commerce and traditional retailing.
Ma said e-commerce will make up 50 percent of the country’s retail sales by 2020, whileWang said he would bet 1 million yuan thatMa is wrong.
However, according to media reports, both of them have made much greater efforts to develop e-commerce. On the other hand, both have unveiled plans and are building newoffline sales models to offer customers a newshopping experience.
Official statistics show online retail sales, at 4 trillion yuan in 2015, are still far behind the traditional retail industry, which racked up 38 trillion yuan. Yet, I amsure e-commerce will catch up quickly, as the convergence of the internet with nearly all industries is accelerating fast.
So it is highly possible that there won’t be a loser in theMa-Wang bet. Instead, both of them will be winners as the retail sector has entered an era of integrated business models.
Addressing an international expo on big-data industry in October, Ma of Alibaba said the life of humankind will be full of marvelous things in the coming 30 years.
That certainly will include new creative retailing models that will further revolutionize our shopping lifestyles with endless joys and benefits.
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