Online Shopping And The Retreat Of Retail Stores

Online Shopping And The Retreat Of Retail Stores

2:35pm Jan 11, 2017
Plenty of national chains have announced post-holiday store closures. But is that really so unusual? (Source: Bradley Gordon/Flickr)

In the weeks following the crucial holiday shopping season, Macy’s, Sears, and The Limited are among the many national retail outlets that have all announced store closures in recent days, including some stores in the Triad.

It’s a stark reminder that even classic brands have life cycles. But is it business as usual for this many retailers to be shuttering stores at one time?

WFDD’s David Ford spoke with Wake Forest University School of Business professor Roger Beahm to find out.

Interview Highlights: 

On regional trends regarding of retail closings of brick-and-mortar stores in the Triad area: 

There have been over the last few years, even local chains like Belks, have been closing some of their stores in favor of opening a few others. Now what we’re looking at is the overall impact of the total number of brick-and-mortar stores.

[Ed.: Beahm goes on to discuss the overall growth in online shopping, and points to how the mobile experience fits in.]

...The trend there tends to be more toward shopping with our mobile devices. In fact, today, over 80 percent of people are using their smart phones now when they’re in the store to comparative price shop, to look up information about products, or to examine reviews that other have said about products.

What kind of impact do these trends have on stores, malls and shopping centers?

During the holiday season, the number two venue for shopping (besides department stores) was online. It’s driven in part by the increased penetration of smart phone usage. And that gave way to the opportunity to do shopping through your smart phone.

The other thing that I think is telling is that for the first time, a majority of marketer dollars from the major advertisers in this country are now going toward online, and particularly to mobile devices. And so, is it a chicken, or is it an egg? The more the marketing efforts go into these digital devices, the more shoppers are going to be looking there, getting information about products and services available online, and that becomes the more standard approach.

Are there any upsides to these brick-and-mortar closings?

The positive aspect to the story really is the fact that the online shopping is continuing to grow at a faster pace perhaps than what people thought. We’re seeing double digit growth in terms of online shopping and when you experience that kind of increase year-over-year, it’s going to take shoppers away from other places.

Certainly there is the decline in brick-and-mortar stores, but the positive side of that is that there’s continued growth in online shopping, and that spells opportunity for retailers that want to take advantage of the trend.  

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