Getting Real

E-tailers discover the virtues of brick-and-mortar stores

A few years ago, online retailers seemed hell-bent on persuading brick-and-mortar customers to become exclusive e-shoppers. Who needs big-box formats and glitzy storefronts when a sleeker virtual shopping experience can be delivered on the cheap? The strategy is working: e-commerce sales grew 13% last year, compared with 5% in real stores. And yet a handful of e-commerce giants may be reverting to the past, filling empty stores with physical meccas for their brands.

Online processor PayPal recently announced plans to spread its e-payment tentacles into brick-and-mortar outlets to vie for in-store business that now goes to credit cards. And last December,...

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