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SHIFTING SHOPPING HABITS: In-person retail shopping

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - There are more than 1,000,000 retail stores across the country. According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales have been growing steadily since 2010 and Americans spent $3,300,000,000,000 in retail stores in 2016.

According to the National Retail Federation, three out of four of the top 50 online retailers are also brick and mortar companies. Even as online shopping becomes more popular, the NRF believes online is not "killing" traditional brick and mortar businesses.

“When you shop local, the money is staying locally. When you shop online, it's not staying in your community,” said Barbara Pugliese, co-owner of Just Because boutique.

Just Because on Saint Armands Circle has only been open for four years, but she needs to keep up with the changing shopping trends.

“We try and buy items that you can't buy online. We try to get exclusivity with our artists,” explained Pugliese.

Just Because boutique faces some challenges. It sells limited quantities of unique items created by 70 artists across the country. Pugliese won't sell her merchandise online because items sell quickly but she tries to bring customers into the store by selling one of a kind merchandise and promoting new products on social media.

“We do try to do facebook posts and keep our social media up,” said Pugliese.

“You'll continue to see this trend and shift of retailers that have this online retailer but come into the store to make that purchase,” explained Lauren Clark, Marketing and Sponsorship Director for the Mall at University Town Center.

Clark noted that shoppers crave experience which is why 90% of shopping still takes place at brick and mortar stores.

“They walk in wanting something and  they walk out leaving with that item which is a leveraging point shopping centers have over e-commerce,” said Clark.

The National Retail Federation reports shoppers make less than 10% of purchases online and most online sales are from brick-and-mortar brand websites. Some online-exclusive retailers are getting looking to improve its one-on-one customer interaction, by opening retail boutiques in shopping centers.

“E-commerce retailers are realizing that to really have a full arrangement of shopping opportunities for consumers that they demand that they have to have a brick and mortar store also,” explained Clark.

Pugliese is convinced shoppers are more invested in the item's price, which is why Just Because sells items for $6, up to $1,000.

“People do watch their pennies a little more than in past times so we try to have things available for them that are beautiful and yet affordable,” said Pugliese.

“Consumers are always looking for value,” explained Clark. “It puts a certain stress on the department store because they see this XYZ shirt, then they're going on their smartphone to see what the price is.”

The number of retail employees is close to an all time high. According to the NRF, nearly 13,000,000 people are working for retail companies and retailers are looking for more employees, specializing in engineering and technology positions.