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Brick-and-Mortar: A Look into Different Types of Physical Retail Stores

9 min read

The phrase “brick-and-mortar” refers to a conventional business located on a street that provides goods and services directly to customers in a physical office or store, either owned or leased by the business. Brick-and-mortar describes a conventional business with physical retail locations where customers can browse and make purchases in person.

Contrary to popular belief, despite the growth of ecommerce, brick-and-mortar stores still hold a significant portion of retail sales. There has been a net estimate of 15,710  new brick-and-mortar stores opening since 2020. And just in 2022 alone, traditional stores sold $6,417 trillion in merchandise.

Without any doubt, in many sectors, they remained the dominant force. Most importantly, brick-and-mortar stores often played a crucial role in local economies, providing employment opportunities and contributing to the vibrancy of communities.

Nevertheless, despite their longstanding history and impeccable record, traditional retail stores still face many challenges, forcing them to adapt their strategies and incorporate elements of online shopping such as click-and-collect services, online orders with physical pick-up, and more.

In the next few sections, we plan to go over what exactly is a brick-and-mortar store, the different types, some examples, and some of the challenges faced by these traditional stores, and eventually, how they leverage technology to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping.

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What Is a Brick-and-Mortar Store?

The term “brick-and-mortar” originated from the materials used to construct physical buildings: bricks and mortar.

In the context of retail, it contrasts with online or ecommerce stores, which operate exclusively over the internet without a physical storefront.

This type of store, also known simply as a “physical store,” is a traditional retail establishment that operates from a physical location, typically a storefront or commercial space. They have a physical presence in the real world, where customers can visit to browse and purchase products or services directly.

A considerable number of consumers continue to favor the experience of shopping and browsing in a physical retail environment. Within brick-and-mortar establishments, customers have the opportunity to interact directly with store staff, seeking advice and information about various products and services.

For many consumers, the ability to speak with knowledgeable staff members and ask questions about products or services is a key reason why they prefer shopping in physical stores.

Additionally, there is also the testing and seeing-for-yourself aspect that comes with traditional retail stores. Physical stores allow customers to test out products firsthand, which results in more convenient and preferable for specific services or products like trying out a video game or laptop at a GameStop or Best Buy, as well as the popular one of trying on wedding dresses for a more accurate and less troublesome experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

As we already know, brick-and-mortar stores provide the benefit of a hands-on shopping experience, which is particularly valuable when customers need to physically examine the product. This can often be the strongest pull that constantly draws people to physical stores.

Overall, the shopping process through physical stores is more interactive and hands-on, offering a personalized customer experience, immediate product availability, easier exchange if needed, and overall, the social bonding that is not possible through online shopping or ecommerce.

However, while physical stores offer many advantages, they also face some challenges like higher overheads, operating hours, limited geographical reach, seasonal fluctuations, inventory management, and even high competition from ecommerce stores.

Overall,  maintaining a physical store involves significant costs such as rent, utilities, and staffing, which can eat into profits. Physical stores are also constrained by their location, limiting their potential customer base compared to online stores that can reach a global audience.

Unlike online stores that are able to remain open 24/7, traditional stores are often limited by operating hours.  One of the biggest issues faced today by traditional stores is that online retailers often offer lower prices and a wider selection of products, posing stiff competition to brick-and-mortar stores.

Brick-and-mortar pros and cons:

Personalized customer serviceHigher overheads costs
Tangible shopping experienceLimited geographical reach
Brand experienceOperating hours constraints
Social interactionInventory management challenges
Immediate gratificationEcommerce competition
Higher security and trustSeasonal fluctuations

These advantages and disadvantages highlight the unique value proposition that brick-and-mortar stores offer in an increasingly digital retail landscape.

Types of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Brick-and-mortar stores come in different types, catering to different industries, consumers’ needs, and preferences. From department stores offering a wide range of products to specialized boutiques focusing on niche markets, brick-and-mortar establishments continue to play a vital role in the retail ecosystem. There are several areas in which traditional stores still provide a strong business model.

Home Improvement Stores

These stores specialize in products for home renovation, construction, and maintenance, such as hardware, tools, lumber, and paint.

Pet Stores

Retailers that sell pet food, accessories, and supplies for various types of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, fish, and small animals.


Stores that offer prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, health and beauty products, and sometimes convenience items.

Cosmetics and Beauty Stores

Retailers focusing on cosmetics, skincare, haircare, and beauty accessories, often featuring both mass-market and high-end brands.

Jewelry Stores

Retailers specializing in fine jewelry, watches, and accessories, offering a range of products from everyday wear to luxury items.

Some popular brands that serve as examples of brick-and-mortar stores across various industries include:

Apparel and Fashion

  • Macy’s
  • H&M
  • Zara

Cosmetics and Beauty

  • Sephora
  • Ulta Beauty
  • MAC Cosmetics

Furniture and Home Decor

  • Ikea
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Pottery Barn
  • Ashley HomeStore

These are just a few examples, but brick-and-mortar stores exist across a wide range of industries, offering physical locations where customers can browse, shop, and interact with products in person.

The majority of these stores combine traditional selling with a physical location while also offering customer the ability to shop online. Once again, proving how both business models can be effective or work better when merged together.

Are Brick-and-Mortar Stores Dying?

While traditional brick-and-mortar retail may not be dead, this sector is currently experiencing a transformation marked by the convergence of physical and digital realms.

We still have a lot to expect from brick-and-mortar stores; they’re likely not going anywhere anytime soon. This is because brick-and-mortar stores offer certain advantages that online retailers cannot replicate; nonetheless, it’s easy to say they are evolving to meet the changing demands of consumers.

Are Brick-and-Mortar Stores Going Online?

Acknowledging the current transformation process traditional stores are undergoing, we can say — yes, definitely! Brick-and-mortar stores have increasingly recognized the importance of establishing an online presence to adapt to changing consumer habits and remain competitive.

Many traditional retailers have launched ecommerce websites or partnered with online marketplaces to reach a broader audience and offer more convenient shopping options. This shift to online channels allows them to cater to customers who prefer the convenience of shopping from home or via mobile devices.

Additionally, having an online presence enables brick-and-mortar stores to provide omnichannel experiences, where customers can seamlessly transition between online and offline shopping channels.

With the help of a platform like Eciwd, brick-and-mortar store owners have the opportunity to establish an online presence by creating a digital storefront, allowing them to reach a broader audience.

In today’s dominant digital era, traditional store owners can easily take advantage of features offered by platforms like Ecwid to enhance customer engagement, such as email marketing tools, customer relationship management (CRM) integrations, and live chat support. These tools enable brick-and-mortar stores to build relationships with customers and drive repeat business.

By leveraging the need for change or the rapid merge between traditional stores and ecommerce, and with the use of ecommerce sites like Ecwid, brick-and-mortar stores can successfully transition and adapt to the changing retail landscape and thrive in both the physical and digital realms.


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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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