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Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts: The next web entrepreneurs?

The latest industry going digital demonstrates big opportunities for dealmakers.

By Caroline Brooks | Caroline.brooks@am.jll.com | @CarolineKBrooks

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One of the last remaining door-to-door sales campaigns went digital on Dec. 1, as the Girl Scouts broke their longstanding prohibition on online sales. And while the news would seem to have little impact on the commercial real estate industry, the reality is it's simply another example of how technology will continue to penetrate every cranny of the American economy—and of how even the most hide-bound of retailers must innovate to stay competitive.

"Companies need multiple ways to stay in touch with their customers," says Bob Silverman, JLL Executive Vice President of Supply Chain & Logistics Solutions. "The challenge for ‘high-touch’ businesses, like the Girl Scouts, is finding a way to do this while not breaking the essential relationship between company and customer."

This challenge is nothing new for brick-and-mortar retailers. For years they've been grappling with the implications of the shift to virtual sales, from price competition to supply-chain revamps, to a rethinking of how physical space is used.

“Business’ operating requirements have changed as a result of the movement to omni-channel," Silverman says. "The smaller and more frequent orders, shipped to peoples’ homes instead of companies’ distribution centers, means buildings need to be more supportive of intensive picking operations and parcel shipments plus direct deliveries."

But while e-commerce may be the fastest-growing portion of a retailer's sales, for many it’s still the smallest. So while real estate decisions should take online sales into account, they shouldn't always be driven by them.

"For some companies the solution lies in outsourcing the e-commerce portion," Silverman says. "But that can cause other problems, such as duplicative inventory and inter-facility transportation."

Read about the Girl Scouts move to digital door-to-door ("Online Sales for Girl Scout Cookies Are Approved," The New York Times, 1 December 2014).  And get those orders in early.


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