adj. Describes something that has a physical presence in the real world, as opposed to a virtual presence in the online world.
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No single company has been able to succeed thus far as an on-line threat to brick-and-mortar shopping malls anchored by giants such as Wal-Mart, Target or Sears. If Amazon does—and analysts say the chances are good—it could be a booster rocket for electronic commerce in the consumer market.
—Steve Rosenbush, “Amazon will be a Net mall,” USA Today, September 30, 1999
Investors seemed to believe that, even if bricks-and-mortar companies tried to venture on to the web, the Internet-based companies would triumph. Stodgy old retailers, after all, did not "get" the web. And, true to stereotype, many of the bricks-and-mortar companies regarded Internet retailing as a fad, or a way of losing money, or both.
—“The real Internet revolution,” The Economist, August 21, 1999
1979 (earliest)
In a March 12 letter to Illinois BA members, the independent banker group urged a vote against the facility proposal on grounds that a change in the facility law is a step toward the introduction of branching and that banks should be devoting their resources to electronic banking instead of "brick and mortar expansion."
—James Ribenstein, “Illinois BA Polls Members on Facilities,” The American Banker, March 22, 1979
The more general sense of this phrase — something made of bricks and mortar — has been around for many years. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary traces this general sense back to 1865. We've seen a resurgence in its use of late, however, presumably because it provides a nice (and these days necessary) contrast with online or virtual.
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