The Brick Conundrum

Quick, when’s the last time you went to a physical store for anything besides groceries? If you’re anything like the rest of the British population, the answer is likely to be ‘‘When we didn’t have roads blocked by snow, thank you very much’’, followed by a disapproving ‘tut’. On a more serious note, only about 13% of Brits haven’t bought anything online in the past year, a shockingly low-yet somewhat unsurprising number.

The Brick Wars and Mortar Shelling

These statistics are the key to the problem faced by Brick and Mortar stores around the country. The ‘Brick Conundrum’, as I like to call it. Sky high internet penetration coupled with exceeding efficient shipping – we’re looking at you, Amazon – has led to great consumer growth but the so called black lining in the clouds is that Brick and Mortar stores, along with wholesalers, been decimated by the gargantuan behemoth that is the internet.

‘Brick and Mortar’ do not have – to put it gently – the most sustainable business model. They tend to buy small quantities of goods locally which, while being brilliant for the local economy, are not particularly spectacular in terms of staving off competition. Besides, the hard truth is that we just do not like to haul ourselves outdoors to buy stuff anymore when we can simply buy stuff online, with greater choice and sometimes frankly ridiculously low prices. Again, we’re looking at you, Amazon.

This is truer for non-consumable items – think furniture, clothes, toys, tide pods (they are decidedly non-consumable, inadvisable YouTube videos notwithstanding) – that people are more likely to wait for; thus negating the ‘one the spot’ aspect of Brick and Mortar. Here’s some food for thought – would you rather look at your coffee table before buying it immediately and pay copious amounts of money, or wait a couple of weeks and pay vastly less, albeit not looking at it physically ( but with the warrantee that comes along with most online furniture purchases) ? In my opinion, furniture sites like Wayfair and Artisan Furniture win any day. I’d choose Artisan for the delicious factory prices and, of course, drop-ship.

Choice + Us Being Lazy + Cheaper Stuff = Online Marketplace ≠ Brick and Mortar


A Choppy Solution

As hinted at before, the solution lies in chopping the supply chain. The decline of the traditional middlemen – wholesalers – is telling. We don’t need 3-4 stages of production anymore. Part of the Brick Conundrum is the high prices charged in said Brick and Mortar. Considering the fact that most independent – and even some chain – Brick and Mortar are on a decline, cutting prices would be the proverbial salt in the wound. Quite possibly the best option is to cut the middlemen altogether and buy direct from the suppliers or the source.

Online > Retailer > Wholesalers > Suppliers > Distributors > Factory

Online > Public > Suppliers (maybe) > Factory

But ideally,

Brick and Mortar > Factory
See, it’s not all bad…

And voila, we have a solution. Cutting out the middlemen results in a massive 50 – 75% cost reduction for the Brick and Mortar – they get a bigger piece of the (preferably apple) pie. The idyllic, can’t-get-any-better option is to directly buy from the factory. The supplier one works too, just not as well. However, realistically it is really, really difficult to get these to work. Wholesalers are not going to ride off into the sunset anytime soon, but in the meanwhile, this is the Brick and Mortar’ best shot.

There are some great choices for Brick and Mortar in the furniture sector though. Artisan Furniture is one that I heard of on Instagram @artisanfurniture_

Offering solid prices and some positively gorgeous pieces. They’re advertising as a ‘direct from factory’ enterprise, drop-ship included. Artisan Furniture is a business to business online furniture website supplying to independent retailers as well as large online furniture companies such as Amazon, Houzz, and Groupon. Definitely worth looking up. Anyway, as I mentioned before, direct from source is the way to go. Without sounding too corny, wholesalers will inevitably be a thing of the past; the internet, and all it brings to the table, is the future, whether we like it or not. It’s time to adapt and flourish, or hold out and perish.