Of those surveyed, 49% buy clothing in-store, with 13% shopping online and 38% shopping equally in stores and online

Of those surveyed, 49% buy clothing in-store, with 13% shopping online and 38% shopping equally in stores and online

Despite the growth of ecommerce, bricks-and-mortar stores are still the cornerstone of American retail with only about a fifth of US consumers primarily online shoppers, new figures show.

According to a new quarterly report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) on consumer behaviour, more than three-quarters of US consumers are shopping at bricks-and-mortar stores just as much as or more than they did a year ago.

The inaugural Consumer View report, launched yesterday (27 September), found that only 21% of consumers surveyed are primarily online shoppers, defined as those who purchase more than half of their items online. By contrast, 79% said they purchase half or less of their items online. Among Millennials and Generation Z, 34% are primarily online shoppers, but the majority still make most of their purchases in stores.

"This report shows that the bricks-and-mortar store is still the cornerstone of American retail and likely will be for many years to come, as consumers seek authentic interaction and experiences with retailers," explains NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. "Despite the changes in our industry, there is an appeal to seeing and touching merchandise in person and being able to engage with fellow human beings that has yet to go away. Even younger shoppers see the value of the store."

Of those surveyed, 49% buy clothing in-store, with 13% shopping online and 38% shopping equally in stores and online.

"The retail industry is changing more rapidly than ever before, and this new vehicle will help us continue to regularly track those changes," adds Shay. "Solid research is the basis of informed decisions, and we want to be sure the industry has the best information available as it seeks to meet consumers' needs. That applies whether people are shopping in-store, online, on smartphones and tablets or with whatever innovation tomorrow brings."

Demographically, those who shop primarily online are younger, wealthier and more likely to live in a larger city. The survey found 49% are aged 18-34 compared with 72% of in-store shoppers aged 35 or older, while 53% of the online shoppers make US$75,000 a year or more and 71% of in-store shoppers make less.

Among shoppers overall, 69% said they go to a store because they need something right away and 65% wanted to see an item before purchasing. Among Millennials, 55% go to stores as a social activity, 50% to pick up an item bought online and 44% to talk to a sales associate. In both groups, 66% said they go to stores simply because they prefer to shop in stores.

Compared with a year ago, 50% of all consumers said they shop in stores about the same amount, while 28% said they do so more often, for a total of 78%. Only 22% shopped in stores less often. Among Millennials, 34% are shopping in stores about the same but 49% are doing so more often and only 17% less often. Millennials said they go to stores more often because a new store had opened, for entertainment or food options or because they are picking up items bought online.

Meanwhile, the survey found that consumers like technologies that transform the store experience. For consumers who had tried buy online, pick up in store, 68% said it improved their shopping experience. Similarly, 66% of those who had tried in-app store navigation and 65% of those who had used mobile payment while shopping said it had a positive impact.

However, other innovations have made less of an impression, with 44% saying in-store digital displays had no impact on their shopping experience and 43% saying the same about the use of tablets of smartphones by store associates; the same number dismissed messaging apps.

NRF is working with Toluna Analytics to produce Consumer View. Toluna surveyed 3,002 consumers for NRF between 20-25 July to produce the initial edition. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.