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The meaning and origin of the expression: Bricks and clicks

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Bricks and clicks

Meaning

A sales model that utilizes both traditional stores (bricks) and Internet trading (clicks).

Origin

This business model, also known as 'clicks and mortar' or 'clicks and bricks', began to be used in the 1990s. The rise of the Internet opened up opportunities for online trading. Initially this was utilized by companies whose primary business was Internet-based - the so-called 'clicks' companies. Established trading companies followed when it became clear that businesses didn't have to be limited to either traditional stores or online trading, but could make use of both. Questions like this were being asked of business leaders:

"Do you work for a bricks company, a clicks company, or a bricks and clicks company?"

(from The Times, September 1999, reporting a talk by Andy Grove, chairman of Intel Corporation to the UK's CBI conference)

Many companies decided that 'bricks' or 'clicks' alone were only appropriate for niche markets and most opted for a mixture of both. This resulted in what was described as the "rush to the middle". In practice there are now very few companies that aren't 'bricks and clicks'. Only quite small local shops have no online presence. Most companies that do trade online aren't exclusively 'clicks'. Some trade exclusively in digital products that require no buildings, but there are warehousing and delivery facilities behind businesses that trade in material goods

tesco vanTypical of the established companies that were early adopters of 'bricks and clicks' were supermarkets, who offered their customers the option of ordering online and having their groceries delivered from central warehousing.

The rhyming nature of the phrase is in keeping with the fashion amongst journalists and advertisers, who like a memorable phrase for people to latch on to; for example, 'beef and reef', surf and turf' etc.