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I have a confession to make: I believe in physical retail as a powerful and enduring means of reaching shoppers. Even in the Age of Amazon, I know that over 90% of all retail US purchases (excluding restaurant and gasoline sales) still happen in physical stores. I trumpet this fact in speeches, articles, and even around the dining room table (to the chagrin of my kids).

But I have to come clean, too. We’re six months from Black Friday 2018 and I’m worried. Last year, the National Retail Federation reported that more than 174 million Americans shopped over Thanksgiving weekend (from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday) — 51 million were in-store only, 64 million purchased both in-store and online, and 58 million were exclusively online shoppers.

See what I mean? More people shopped exclusively online than those who shopped exclusively in-store. Will this trend continue? More people shopped both online and in-store but online keeps winning to the detriment of stores. And we’ve seen thousands of US store closures since last Nov.

The best retailers are rapidly improving their physical presence. They give people reasons to visit and return. They hire, train, and manage better sales associates than ever. They leverage their distribution network to make their stores pickup points for online purchases, thereby encouraging add-on sales when shoppers retrieve their online orders. They give shoppers the chance to feel, try on, even taste the product before committing to have it shipped to them. And they let the shopper become an owner right now.

I think stores are coming back. Or am I deluding myself? What do you think?

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