offline versus online shopping

Retail Store Closings



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The Christmas Season

By all indications, the retail industry just capped off a successful holiday shopping season, overall. Sales were up about 4% compared to last year, according to industry experts.

The question is, will that be enough to save stores on the brink of bankruptcy? Don’t count on it.

“I’ve always been optimistic about this holiday. The question is who the winners and losers are going to be,” said Greg Portell, lead partner in retail with consultant A.T. Kearney.

Offline Versus Online Shopping

Consumers are doing more of their shopping online and on their smartphones, and less at traditional brick-and-mortar stores (shares in Amazon were up 55% in 2017).

At the same time, store closure announcements more than tripled to about 7,000, a record, according to Fung Global Retail and Technology, a retail think tank.

There have been 662 bankruptcy filings in the retail sector so far in 2017, according to That’s up 30% from the same period last year.

And while many were small mom-and-pop stores, dozens of major national retailers are on the list.

At a time when employers hired nearly 2 million workers in the US and unemployment reached a 17-year low, retail was one of the biggest job losers — employment fell by 36,000 jobs. Only telecommunications lost more.

Changes and Evolution

But those in the industry say this was not what others referred to as a “retail apocalypse.” Instead, it’s a normal evolution.

“There is always going to be winners and losers in an industry like this. It constantly in a state of flux,” said Tom McGee, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group of mall owners. “The whole image of the demise of traditional retailing is overblown.”

McGee points out that occupancy rates at the nation’s malls remain at about 93%, and that the number of enclosed malls have remained stable, even though high-profile department store chains such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s have closed some of their anchor locations.

New Stores

But while it’s true that new store-opening announcements are also up compared to 2016, according to Fung, those openings total only 3,433. That’s just under half of the number of store closing announcements. And most of the new stores will be Dollar Tree and Dollar General, two bargain chains.

As for the job losses, some of them are due to retailers using more automation, such as self-checkout lanes, as they struggle to control costs and find the workers they need in a time of low unemployment.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are shifting more jobs to their online operations, where the workers are counted as warehousing or logistics jobs rather than retail jobs, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

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1. The Christmas Holiday Season was a disappointment for traditional stores. True or false?

2. What is the trend among consumers?

3. How is this trend reflected in the retail industry?

4. Only small shops have been adversely affected. Is this right or wrong?

5. As a result of retail store closures, has unemployment in the US increased overall?

6. According to economists, brick-and-mortar stores will all go bankrupt and disappear. Is this correct or incorrect? Are there any plans for new stores? What kind are they?

7. What can you say about the nature of work and employment in the retail industry?


A. Do you and your friends buy things online, offline or both? Which do you prefer, or does it depend?

B. Has there been a general trend over the years?

C. How do people feel about store closures and increasing online retail?

D. What will happen in the future?

E. What can or should former retail employees do?

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