Resources for Teachers and Students
FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 22, 2017
Department stores and malls may be an endangered species as more of us shop online
Is a local mall in the news lately? Do an archive search of recent articles and pick one to describe.
Some places thrive while others fight to survive. Look for a store, restaurant or business that’s new or doing well.
Now read coverage of any company or industry and tell why it interests you.
How many times have you bought something at a mall this year, or even gone to a shopping center for more than a movie? Your answer and possible changes in how your family shops may reflect a national pattern that's bad news for department stores and the sprawling malls they anchor. As more consumers buy from home at Amazon and other e-commerce marketplaces, shopping centers and their tenants struggle across the country. "Amazon chews up retailers," a recent Bloomberg News headline says.
These are among 2017 casualties so far: JCPenney plans to shut 138 stores by July; Payless ShoeSource declared bankruptcy last month; Macy's is shutting 68 locations; Sears (which also owns Kmart) warns investors of "substantial doubt" it can survive. Smaller shops, including those not in malls, also are hard-hit by online competition. A leading financial services firm, Credit Suisse, says in a research report that more than 8,600 physical stores could close in 2017 – up from 2,056 in 2016.
"These are perilous times for malls and shopping centers," says Pete Saunders, economic development coordinator in Calumet City, Ill., near Chicago. Its 50-year-old mall has two empty department stores. Elsewhere, some owners use mall parking lots for carnivals, concerts and food truck festivals. The idea is to lure visitors with experiences they can't have online, and then get them inside to shop. In other places, hollowed-out shopping centers are adapted for new uses – such as trampoline parks and community colleges. "It's an industry that's still in search for answers," says Noel Hebert, a retail business analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "I don't know how many malls can reinvent themselves."
Wall Street expert says: "Today, convenience is sitting at home in your underwear on your phone or iPad. The types of trips you'll take to the mall and the number of trips you'll take are going to be different." – Christian Buss, Credit Suisse Group retail analyst
Clothing executive says: "This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate." – Richard Hayne, chief executive at Urban Outfitters
Journalist says: "Easy return policies have made online shopping cheap, easy and risk-free for consumers in apparel, which is now the largest e-commerce category." – Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic magazine.
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