Brick and Mortar

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on March 06, 2024

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What Is Brick and Mortar?

Brick-and-mortar businesses epitomize traditional retail and denote companies with a physical storefront. These entities, anchored in concrete and glass, represent a direct, tactile consumer experience crucial in numerous industries.

Often perceived as the antithesis of online ventures, their role extends beyond mere sales, serving as community landmarks and employment hubs. They are not merely commercial spaces but also significant assets on a company's balance sheet.

The investment in real estate, maintenance costs, and the tangible nature of these businesses impact various financial strategies, from capital allocation to liquidity management.

Moreover, their existence shapes local economies, influencing everything from property values to municipal tax revenues.

History and Evolution

Initially, these were simple stalls or shops where merchants and artisans sold goods. Over centuries, this evolved into more permanent structures, shaping the concept of retail spaces as we know them today.

These historical roots underline the enduring nature of physical commerce despite the advent of digital alternatives. With the advent of modern banking and finance, options expanded, including larger credits and public funding through stock markets.

This evolution reflects the growing complexity and scale of brick-and-mortar businesses, necessitating sophisticated financial strategies.

Significant milestones in this sector include the advent of department stores in the 19th century, the rise of shopping malls in the mid-20th century, and the recent integration of technology like point-of-sale systems.

Challenges in the Brick and Mortar Finance Sector

Competition From E-commerce

The rise of e-commerce has posed a formidable challenge, compelling brick-and-mortar stores to rethink strategies.

This competition has led to a re-evaluation of financial investments, with a focus on improving in-store experiences and integrating online and offline channels.

Businesses are now tasked with maintaining physical stores' relevance while competing with the convenience and often lower overheads of online counterparts.

Rising Real Estate Costs

The financial burden of maintaining physical premises has been exacerbated by rising real estate costs. For many brick-and-mortar businesses, rental or property costs constitute a significant portion of their expenses.

This trend demands shrewd financial planning and a keen eye on location strategy to ensure that the benefits of a physical presence justify the investment.

Changing Consumer Behavior

Consumer preferences have evolved, with an increased emphasis on experiences over mere transactions. This shift has prompted brick-and-mortar businesses to invest more in creating unique, engaging store environments.

Financially, this requires a careful balance between experiential investments and traditional operational costs, ensuring that such enhancements translate to increased foot traffic and sales.

Regulatory Challenges

Brick-and-mortar businesses also face a complex web of regulations, from zoning laws to health and safety standards. Navigating these regulatory waters requires legal expertise and significant financial resources.

Compliance costs can be substantial, and failure to adhere to regulations can result in hefty fines, making regulatory awareness a crucial aspect of financial planning in this sector.

Financial Strategies for Brick and Mortar Businesses

Cost Management

Effective cost management entails carefully examining and controlling expenses associated with rent, utilities, staff, and inventory, ultimately leading to improved profitability.

It's not just about cutting costs but smartly allocating resources to areas that yield the highest return on investment. This may involve negotiating better lease terms, optimizing energy usage, or streamlining staff schedules.

The second aspect of cost management involves strategic decisions like store location and size.

Choosing the right location can significantly impact foot traffic and sales, while the store size should align with the business's inventory needs and customer base.

Omnichannel Retailing

This approach integrates physical stores with online platforms, providing a seamless shopping experience for customers. Financially, it allows businesses to tap into a wider market, increasing revenue streams while leveraging their physical presence.

This strategy involves investing in e-commerce platforms and digital marketing while ensuring consistency in branding and customer service across all channels.

Moreover, omnichannel retailing offers valuable data insights. Businesses can tailor their offerings and marketing strategies more effectively by tracking customer interactions across various platforms.

Customer Experience Enhancement

In the era of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores must offer more than just products—they need to deliver memorable customer experiences. Investing in store aesthetics, staff training, and in-store technology can transform a regular shopping trip into an engaging experience, fostering customer loyalty.

Financially, this means allocating funds towards aspects that directly enhance customer satisfaction, which can lead to higher sales and repeat business.

Apart from physical enhancements, hosting events, workshops, or other community activities can also enrich the customer experience. While requiring upfront investment, these initiatives can pay off by increasing foot traffic and creating buzz around the brand. Ultimately, a delighted customer is a buyer and a potential brand ambassador.

Inventory Management

Overstocking can increase holding costs and potential wastage, while understocking might result in missed sales opportunities. Implementing robust inventory management systems helps maintain the right balance, ensuring that the store is stocked with the right products in the right quantities.

Advanced inventory management techniques, like Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory, can significantly reduce costs and increase efficiency. By receiving goods only as they are needed for sales, businesses can minimize storage costs and reduce the risk of inventory obsolescence.

Investment and Financing Options

Traditional Banking and Loans

For brick-and-mortar businesses, traditional banking and loans are essential for financing needs like setup, expansion, or refurbishment.

While term loans offer a fixed amount of capital, lines of credit provide flexible borrowing options, essential for managing cash flow.

Businesses must navigate these options with a robust business plan and an understanding of interest rates and repayment terms that impact their financial health.

They must maintain a good credit rating and financial records to access these financing options.

Venture Capital and Private Equity

Venture capital and private equity present alternative funding avenues for businesses with high growth potential. These investors not only inject capital but also contribute expertise and networking opportunities.

However, securing such investments involves giving up a degree of ownership and control and requires a compelling business case, highlighting profitability and growth prospects.

Real Estate Investment

Real estate investments are a significant consideration, offering long-term benefits like asset appreciation. Businesses must weigh the pros and cons of owning versus leasing property, considering factors such as upfront costs, flexibility, and alignment with long-term strategies.

Whether owning property for appreciation and rental income or choosing to lease for lower initial costs, the decision can significantly affect a business’s financial trajectory.

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) offer a way for businesses to raise substantial capital by going public.

While an IPO can provide crucial funds for expansion and strategic initiatives, it also brings challenges like increased public scrutiny and regulatory compliance.

Preparing for an IPO requires a detailed financial audit, a strong management team, and a clear narrative for investors, making it a complex yet potentially rewarding financial strategy.

Types of Taxes for Brick and Mortar Businesses

Property Taxes

These taxes are levied on the property's assessed value, which includes both the land and the building itself. The rate of property tax varies greatly by location, and it's a recurring expense that can have a substantial impact on the business's overhead costs.

For businesses that own their premises, property taxes may represent a significant portion of their fixed expenses.

On the other hand, businesses that lease their premises might see these costs reflected in their rental charges, as landlords often pass on property tax costs to tenants.

Sales Taxes

Sales taxes are another pivotal aspect of retail businesses. They are collected from customers at the point of sale and are then remitted to the government.

The complexity of sales tax lies in its variability, where rates can differ dramatically across different jurisdictions.

For businesses operating in multiple areas or selling online, this creates a challenge in accurately calculating and remitting the correct amount of tax.

Additionally, certain products may be exempt from sales tax, and there may be periods, such as tax holidays, when sales tax is not collected, adding another layer of complexity to tax management.

Income Taxes

Income taxes, whether at the corporate or personal level, depend on the structure of the business. These taxes are calculated on the profits earned by the business and can be influenced by various deductions and credits.

Deductions might include business expenses like payroll, utilities, rent, and cost of goods sold, while credits may be available for certain types of business activities or investments.

Effective tax planning can help a business minimize its tax liability and improve its bottom line.

Employment Taxes

These include taxes such as Social Security and Medicare, which are part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), as well as federal and state unemployment taxes.

Employers are responsible not only for withholding the correct amount of these taxes from their employee's wages but also for paying a matching amount for some of these taxes.

Businesses must handle the reporting and remittance of these taxes to the appropriate authorities, which requires diligent record-keeping and an understanding of the various tax rates and thresholds.


The journey of brick-and-mortar businesses, from their traditional origins to their current role in a digitally-dominated world, underlines their resilience and adaptability.

The definition of these businesses has expanded, encompassing not just the physical selling of goods but also the experiences and relationships they foster with customers.

Navigating the myriad challenges, from digital competition to changing consumer preferences, brick-and-mortar businesses have demonstrated remarkable innovation.

Adopting strategies like omnichannel retailing and enhancing customer experience, they have redefined their value proposition, balancing traditional strengths with modern demands.

The exploration of various financing and investment options reveals the dynamic financial landscape in which these businesses operate.

From traditional loans to venture capital and IPOs, the choices are varied, each with its own set of benefits and considerations.

The prospects for brick-and-mortar businesses remain bright, albeit with the need for continual adaptation and innovation.

By leveraging their unique advantages and embracing change, these businesses can continue to thrive in an ever-evolving commercial landscape.

Brick and Mortar FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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