Ah whoops, posted that from the wrong account (apparently I already have another one linked to FB that automatically signs in? oh well...)
I miss Blackbird a ton. Wish it was still here - has definitely left a gap in the market.
I think that to survive retail, period, right now, requires that you bring something special to the table. From what I've seen, this goes for both online and offline. There are certainly advantages to being a B&M. For starters, at very least, you will be seen. Internet real estate is cheap, but by the same token, it's hard to get exposure, and the competition is literally a click away. For a B&M, the difficult thing seems to be in understanding the local market. In either case, you simply can't, with any certainty, duplicate success. A successful concept, put into a different environment, can fail, and this happens both online and off. I am always wary about giving any sets of rules. There are best practices, but these just keep you from abject failure at launch... most of the time.
I think that a lot of whether any store makes it, these days, depends on a combination between scarcity/exclusivity of your goods, and the pricepoints at which you are dealing. If you have a lot of things at pricepoints that don't give your target audience pause, and they are difficult enough to find elsewhere that not buying at your store would not be a clear net benefit to them, and your business model is sound and realistic, then yeah, you might have a competitive chance.
I think that Epaulet and Taylor Stitch have both done a good job. They focus on basic items with wide appeal, with many of their items actually exclusive to their store and in limited supply, Any outside brands that they carry enhance the image of their house brands. They are both also adept at social media, which is not just important for an online business, but for anyone trying to build their brand. They also have a very disciplined way of introducing new goods, in terms of volume, the capacity for higher volume or dial down, depending on the reception, and marketing, which gives new goods a greater chance at success. Theirs is certainly not the only model, oif course, but it's a smart money model.
I met the owner of a local men's boutique that's struggling to get by. He's a cool dude but really doesn't know how to get on top of the online game. The store's brand recognition is fairly low and his online storefront is rudimentary at best. He prices everything to beat the popular online stores' price by $10 or so plus free shipping, but I'm not sure it's working.
He's got some cool store collaborations going now with some popular brands. It just feels like the store's social media presence is completely null.