Why We Still Want Brick-and-Mortar Stores

The busiest shopping season of the year is almost upon us, and one of the biggest sells from most retailers is how you don't even have to leave home to get the goods. Online shopping epitomizes a paradigm shift in how we consume goods and even services. Is it so convenient that we're willing to give up the old school entirely?

New research says not at all. A study from the University of Arizona asked shoppers about their preferences and opinions on the retail environment today. While there's a lot to be said for online shopping, as well as why it's become so ubiquitous, many say we'd lose something by doing away with in-person shopping options. People who like brick-and-mortar stores laud the tactile and sensory experience, the opportunity to see and explore products in person, and the chance to socialize both with friends and family and even with strangers.

Poor customer service, long lines, and items being out of stock are the biggest detractions for offline shoppers. But consumers are worried in lots of ways about a world with online-only options. "There's a sense that brick-and-mortar stores are part of the social fabric of our society," said lead author Sabrina Helm in a press release. "If they disappear, many are concerned about the economy and what this will do for jobs and revenue for communities … There are also fears that come from the closure of store spaces: What happens with all that empty space? Is crime going to increase because now we have all these empty areas?"

Ultimately, the UA research team puts the onus on retailers to make in-person shopping worthwhile and enjoyable. But it's worth taking consumers' temperature on the matter — especially if you like to vote with your dollars about how the future shapes up.