Amazon has reordered the retail economy, but (some) physical stores are performing better than ever. The number of retailers is declining. Those that are succeeding are connecting their online storefronts to the instant gratification of their actual storefronts. "Many successful stores are now a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge."
The Community Land Use and Economics Group is a small, specialized, consulting firm that helps community leaders create vibrant downtowns and neighborhood commercial centers. Our work focuses on developing forward-looking economic transformation strategies, with particular emphasis on cultivating locally owned businesses, removing regulatory and financial barriers, creating effective incentives to stimulate new investment, reusing older and historic commercial buildings, and outlining practical implementation plans. Our clients include local and state governments, nonprofit organizations, business improvement districts, developers, and planning firms in the US and abroad.
All the Toys R Us stores are now closed, leaving approximately 28.6 million square feet of retail space vacant - and accounting for 21 percent of all store closures in the US so far this year. The companies leasing the vacant space left behind include Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Burlington Coat Factory, and TJ Maxx, as well as some non-retailers, like medical facilities and coworking spaces. If you have an indie toy store in your downtown or neighborhood, this could be a great time for it to expand its market share.
A suburban Cleveland shopping mall’s solution to filling its long-vacant department store space: lease the space to a self-storage facility. The 162,200 square foot former Macy’s is now being converted to self-storage units. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
Investment advisor The Motley Fool has flagged 17 major national retail chains as being at risk of failure in 2018, including giants like Sears, JCPenney, and Barnes & Noble, as well as some slightly smaller (but still large) chains, such as J. Crew, Payless, and Nine West.
As we have pointed out before, national retail chains often close outlets not because market demand for their goods and services has disappeared but because there is some problem with the company's overall fundamentals (such as adding new outlets at a financially unsustainable rate). When a chain store closes locally, it could represent an opportunity for one or more locally owned downtown businesses to make a play for the purchases local shoppers might otherwise have made at the chain. Want more information on how your downtown might take advantage of these potential opportunities? Contact us.
Yet more evidence that the market for retail mattress stores is softening: Mattress Firm is closing 200 additional outlets. Seems like the company's executives have been losing sleep over its rapid expansion (1500 new outlets since 2010).
Although Americans are spending more time dining out than in recent decades, it's getting tougher to operate restaurants. Here's one reason: Private equity has been pouring into fast food, fast-casual, and other chain restaurants, pressuring chains and franchisers to open more outlets. And, that's one more reason why it's great for independently owned downtown restaurants, whose personalities and location make them unique.
Adding its voice to those of many other investment firms and economic advisors, Credit Suisse now predicts that 25 percent of US shopping malls will close within the next five years. To us, this suggests some significant opportunities for traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts to grab back some retail market share.
Yet more evidence of big changes on the horizon for the shopping mall industry: A new report by real estate analyst CBRE says that, for the mall concept to survive, mall management companies must focus less on department store anchors and on small chains and more on food and entertainment. Only problem is that department stores - currently most malls' major tenants - usually have to approve significant changes beforehand, and their long leases make quick changes very unlikely.
The consolidation, downsizing, and outright shuttering of chain retailers continues. In this morning's Weekly Roundup, Fung Global Retail & Technology predicted that 9,452 stores will close by the end of 2017, a 361 percent increase over the previous year. The latest announcements include denim chain True Religion's bankruptcy, hot on the heels of announcements that Sycamore Partners will buy office supply retailer Staples (and close many of the stores), that Sears and Bed Bath & Beyond are closing more stores, and that Eddie Bauer is looking for a buyer.
What's going on? Lots of factors are at play, including overly ambitious chain store expansion plans, consumers' continuing shift toward online shopping, and the many ways in which Millennials' shopping patterns and preferences differ from those of previous generations. Many of these are promising signs for traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts who stand to benefit from capturing sales that shoppers previously spent in now-closed chain stores. After all, independently owned downtown businesses offer shoppers the ultimate combination of personal attention, deep product knowledge, hyper-local market responsiveness - and, for those businesses that are savvy, both bricks-and-mortar and online shopping opportunities.
Want to talk about how to make your downtown more competitive during this period of enormous retail transition? Drop us a line or call us.
Drawing on data from Credit Suisse, internet marketing firm Kleiner Perkins predicts that more retail stores will close this year than they have in the past two decades. Things look grim for shopping malls, which rely on chain retailers. But there could be great opportunities for downtowns and neighborhood commercial corridors, whose businesses could see increased sales as chain retailers close. And, independently owned downtown businesses have the ability to customize their products and offer unique experiences tailored to their communities - unlike chain stores. Neil Blumenthal, one of eyeglass retailer Warby Parker's two CEOs, recently said, "I don't think retail is dead. Mediocre retail experiences are dead."
Yet more bad news for the chain retail industry: February-March were the worst months for retailers since 2009, with retail stores eliminating 60,000 jobs.
This could be good news for downtowns and for independently owned downtown retail businesses, with market share shifting from malls to main streets. Independently owned businesses have always been more adaptable to local markets than chain retailers. And, downtowns already have many non-retail uses.