adj. Describes something that has a physical presence in the real world, as opposed to a virtual presence in the online world.
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.
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.
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."
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.