Stores find new ways to survive in changing retail landscape

By  | 

NEW YORK (CBS) At the Eddie Bauer store in Columbus, Ohio, the retail environment is decidedly chilly, freezing, in fact.

They created an icebox chilled to 16 degrees so customers can try out their cold weather gear. It's something that can't be done online.

Like Eddie Bauer, retailers across the country are looking for ways to lure customers offline and into their stores.

Melisa Miller is with Alliance Data, which helps businesses market to customers and try to retain them.

"It could be a makeover. It could be meet the chef. It could be decorating services," Miller said.

It's why Saks had its "Wellery" pop up-- part fitness center and part shopping experience. And Macy's is partnering with Samsung at its flagship store in New York in the hopes that virtual reality turns into actual sales. Empty stores aren't sustainable, but novel efforts to coax customers through the doors come with risks.

"Well, if it seems like a gimmick, today's customer sees right through it. They might check it out once but they're not going to be responsive to it," said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University. "Increasingly they can transact anywhere in the world just with the stroke of a key."

It is estimated that in the next five years, one in four U.S. malls will close. So the effort to get people to shop in stores is urgent for these retailers.