Why I am optimistic for brick and mortar

Today, here in Switzerland, is a holiday, and all the shops are closed, and we got time to read. For instance: This interesting review of my Cologne du Maghreb, by Lucas, running the chemist in the bottle blog. And, if heading over to the chemist in the bottle: Make sure not to miss my interview there (including a cool picture that I did in the factory), and you might want to check soon again Lucas’ blog, for …well,  surprise, surprise !

So, there we go: Shops are closed, except for the online shops of course!

Shopping Online: Bigger and bigger.
Here, we did not shop a lot, lately. A few its and bits. And, to be frank, what I shopped lately I did online. Although I am downtown almost daily, I got tired of stepping into shops expecting the usual scenario; sales “assistants” that are, well, not a lot of help, bad air, too many others. You get it. I am not alone: My friends shop online, too. During the day or night, when they feel like it, not when the shops feel it is time to open their runways. Here in Switzerland, shop opening times are still somewhat regulated.

Service levels: shrinking.
And (public) service in Switzerland often stops in the afternoon, like yesterday: Although yesterday was not a holiday, but today, the Swiss Post decided to close their doors at 4 pm instead of 6 pm. On regular days they are closed between noon and 2 pm: And yes, this is exactly the time when most working people would have time to head to the post office.

Logistics: changing.
Yesterday, in the news, the Swiss Post happily announced their increased investments into offering an order fulfillment service for e-commerce, while I stood before closed doors at the local post office. (On a side note: Unfortunately, the Swiss post does not transport dangerous goods, such as perfumes, any more. It is one of the biggest obstacles for me running my business here in Switzerland. And ultimately, I might have me move part of my business out of Europe/Switzerland.) So you see: I find it all very confusing, and cannot but realize a big gap between how people shop and what shops do about it. Like many service providers, the post, and shops are in for troubles with commerce going digital, more and more; the ecommerce logistics is a cold side of the business and there is zero client relation building there.

Shops losing their core asset: relations with clients.
Online, building relations is much harder. Like in the newspaper the other day: In front of the computer it is rather lonely, and unsensual. You can’t touch the other, can’t hug, can’t smell the other person; what you smell is your own socks.

You can buy perfume online: I did it, others do it. But here is the thing that I realized when in Rome. As perfume is so incredibly sensual, emotional, personal and in need of the material manifestation before your nose: Brick and mortar stores selling perfumes are in an almost unique position. If they do it right, their business will continue to thrive, independent of what other brick and mortar businesses might lose towards online.

Looking over the rim of my coffee cup: It might well be that the more promising future for real artisanal low volume high quality independent perfumery is not online, but physical. Brick and mortar. The real thing. Because there, and midterm maybe mostly there, small enterprises and artists find their chance to proof that they are different, to build relationships with clients, to speak to clients and being heard without having to shout. Online, they might be washed away by an avalanche of money, brands, products.

I don’t know, really, but we will see. But I am optimistic for many little brick and mortar stores, here and there.

Today’s picture: scent strips on a chair, seen at the Smell Festival in Bologna