retail real estate
Amrita Marino.

Ready or not, the future of retail is here.

Accelerating expectations for convenience, faster delivery and engaging in-store experiences have sent many footwear and apparel retailers scrambling for a more effective real estate strategy.

“Retailers know [that brick-and- mortar] is still very relevant but are rethinking the number of stores, [their location], their purpose, how to reimagine them and how to integrate all the technologies that are driving new shopping patterns,” said Gene Spiegelman, vice chairman of North America retail services at Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

But the biggest hurdle in creating a thriving marriage between real estate, retail and technology is that each component moves at its own pace.

“When you’re making a real estate decision, you have to consider it, plan for it, then apply capital,” Spiegelman said. “Then — whether it’s a shopping center or a store — you have to build it and occupy it. By the time you’ve completed that whole process, technology has moved the dial again, making what you planned a year ago less relevant.”

While retail executives have been touting their omnichannel efforts for years, few could have predicted the explosive growth of e-commerce pure plays such as Amazon and eBay and how much they would redefine consumer-shopping patterns. Amazon’s ability to lure shoppers to the web, coupled with its push to offer near immediate delivery, has taken market share from many retail giants, including Walmart, Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney.

An uptick in retail bankruptcies, store closures and layoffs among traditional retailers is evidence of the shift, leading experts to conclude that the U.S. is generally overstored. (Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney are among the firms to shutter hundreds of doors in recent months.)

Still, according to Antony Karabus, CEO of HRC Advisory, many retailers’ brick-and-mortar presence — if appropriately optimized — could be their ace in the hole.

“Retailers are under immense pressure to keep up with Amazon,” explained Karabus. “But they do have one advantage over Amazon and that is that [many of them] have hundreds and thousands of stores.”

Is Less More?

“Just because a store might not be performing as well as another store, doesn’t mean that its presence should be eliminated from that local geography,” explained CL King & Associates analyst Steve Marotta. “Given that people like to pick up in store and return in store eliminating every underperforming store might be a net detriment.”

In fact, Ron Offir, founder and CEO of Offir Consulting LLC and former…