The "split-flap" display sign is not dead. It's being reimagined as public art.

You may have read about the untimely demise of Amtrak's flip-board train information sign in Philadelphia. It was removed last month, the last one of its kind in the US. But there's a small company called Oat Foundry in Philadelphia that still manufactures "split-flap" display boards and they are being installed in restaurants, public spaces, and as interactive art projects (with an app for posting messages). Here’s a video.

Whole Foods isn't enough. Amazon is opening (another) grocery chain.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is getting ready to open a new chain of grocery stores, smaller than traditional supermarkets and at a lower price point than its flagship Whole Foods. It's starting in Los Angeles, with expansion planned to Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia. These are expected to take aim at both traditional and smaller-format stores and place a strong emphasis on high-margin health-and-beauty-aid products.

Some retail stores are breaking sales records (if they have adapted)

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."

Toys R Us has left the building.

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.

17 major retail chains are on The Motley Fool's 2018 death watch

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.