Shopping and the internet: Retailers are striving to combine the advantages of physical shops with the benefits of online selling

Terry Lundgren and Kevin Ryan know and like each other. But when it comes to the future of retailing the boss of Macy’s, an American department-store giant, and the chief executive of Gilt Groupe, an online retailer, disagree wildly. Mr Lundgren remains a firm believer in an empire of bricks and mortar. Mr Ryan is betting big on online-only selling.”It used to be catalogues killing physical stores, then it was TV shopping and now it is online retail,” says Mr Lundgren. Although he will not be pinned down on whether the internet is a threat to shopkeepers or an opportunity for them, he is convinced that his chain is on the right path. Macy’s is embracing “omnichannel” integration, that is, selling stuff on television, through mail-order catalogues and online, as well as keeping its department stores. The company runs 810 shops across America under the mid-price, mid-market Macy’s brand and 38 posher Bloomingdale’s outlets.

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