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Post-Pandemic Shopping: Stores Reinventing To Create A Customer-Focused Experience

BOSTON (CBS) -- Many of us have done a lot of our shopping from the couch during the pandemic, and while the vaccine brings hope that shoppers can go back to doing what they love, in person, the experience might look different.

Kathleen Costello has bucked the trend of the struggling retail store during the pandemic. "Business has been good," she said of her trendy boutique in downtown Winchester.

The Hive is filled with the latest styles, but more importantly, customers. is filled with the latest styles, but more importantly customers.

"I love that you get the one-on-one service," one local shopper told WBZ-TV. "It's different than going to a big store like Macy's where you don't get the know the owners."

Experts said that lack of personal service is part of the reason many retailers are struggling, particularly malls. We found a number of empty storefronts on a recent trip to the Burlington Mall. The Hanover mall was recently torn down, and the Silver City Mall in Taunton is also scheduled for demolition.

One research firm predicts hundreds of malls to close in the next five years. In order to avoid that fate, the traditional mall may need to reinvent the shopping experience.

"It [will have to be] focused more on what the customer can do in the mall, what they can learn, what they can experience with their senses," explained retail analyst Blake Morgan.

Some brands are already doing this. Vans Shoes has several skate parks around the world and the Nike store in New York City has a basketball court and a treadmill to try out shoes.

According to Katherine Cullen of the National Retail Federation, the mall of the future may include gourmet food options and maybe even live music. "The mall will look very different," she said.

Malls may put their large anchor stores to use in a different way -- think fulfillment centers or even grocery stores.

Experts like Cullen also predict we will see more 'social shopping'.

In China, it's all about live-stream shopping. The e-commerce giant Alibaba has had huge success marrying the power of social media influencers with a platform that looks like a cross between the Home Shopping Network and Facebook live. "You can shop for products, interact with people, and see how products are working in real-time," Cullen said.

Retailers are also looking to bring social platforms into brick-and-mortar locations.

"They will have tablets set up where you can see reviews for a product that you are considering buying and post your own review right from the store," Cullen said.

Costello is using Instagram to help boost online sales and is even offering free local delivery. But she believes nothing will ever replace the experience of shopping in a store.

"I think people want to get out. People like to shop and so I definitely feel good about it and I'm excited for spring," she said.

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