Forever 21's demise was entirely predictable.

In fact, we predicted this a decade ago. Younger shoppers are deeply concerned about the environmental impacts of their purchases and, consequently, are buying less but spending more for higher-quality items - particularly clothing - that will last a long time. Will H&M, Old Navy, and other manufacturers/retailers of cheap clothing follow in Forever 21's path?

Let's not confuse the "retail apocalypse" with real changes in consumer behavior

We see so many headlines about the "retail apocalypse" - and hear so many debates about whether it is real or not. It is true that some proportion of the many chain store closures in the past few years is because the chains expanded too rapidly and were over-leveraged. But it is also true that, at this point in 2019, there have already been more chain store closures than in all of 2018. Under all the rhetoric about the retail apocalypse, there are some profound demographic, psychographic, and economic shifts taking place that are shaping a new retail reality. It's important to separate these two parallel phenomena.

Why Rent Control Doesn't Work

"Why Rent Control Doesn't Work" on Freakonomics Radio. The data indicate that it helps some (esp. those already in rent-controlled apartments) and initially reduces displacement, but it also reduces mobility and the ability for *new* residents to access rent-controlled units. Also interesting: New York City is about to experiment with a form of commercial rent management, based on mandatory binding arbitration (rather than actually controlling rent increases).

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.