Department Stores Remember That You Can’t Get Spa Treatments Or Lunch On Amazon

Image courtesy of Jason Cook

You can now order just about anything online, but there are some things that can’t be delivered in a box on your doorstep. If department stores and their business model are going to survive, experts say, they need to change their offerings and sell more products that can’t be purchased online.

That was originally the idea of department stores, after all: offering a variety of merchandise as well as services like restauarnts and salons so customers would spend as long in the store as possible, perhaps buying things. The Associated Press reports that modern department stores are returning to that idea, hoping to give customers an experience.

This idea goes from the high-end department stores all the way to the low-end ones. Part of the comeback strategy at JCPenney is to target promotions to regular customers of the company’s hair salon, who are already returning to the store every few months: maybe they can buy some stuff while they’re there.

The company is also giving over some floor space to appliances, realizing that people generally don’t order their fridges and dishwashers online yet.

Saks Fifth Avenue president Marc Metrick explained to the AP that the goal is “creating the experience in the store,” to provide customers with services and attention to keep them in the building. “They’ll shop here. They’ll eat here. They’ll get their hair done here. They’ll meet their friends here.” If they could do all four at once, that would really be a service.

Macy’s is also trying to get past a few years of deep discounting, and is trying to use artificial intelligence to perform some basic customer service functions using an app so its human employees can spend more time being attentive to customers and getting them to spend more money.

Department stores hope to recapture appeal, be destinations AP]