Retail Apocalypse? Online Competition Drives Store Closings

By Kyle Arnold
Orlando Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Retail analysts say brick-and-mortar is facing its biggest challenge since the Great Recession. But this time it’s not general economic woes, it’s online shopping and an over-saturation of physical stores causing the problems.

Orlando Sentinel

Gymboree was the latest victim of the “Retail Apocalypse” last week when it announced it would close three stores at Central Florida malls.

In case you think that’s an exaggeration, check out some numbers. At least 60 national chain stores have closed in Metro Orlando since the start of 2016, along with another 100 stores wiped out when Artegon Marketplace closed.

In Central Florida, retailers such as Macy’s, The Limited, hhgregg and locally owned Siegel’s Clothing Co. have closed local stores or shut down entirely. They join dozens of others, including Wet Seal, Payless ShoeSource and Radio Shack.

Brick-and-mortar is facing its biggest challenge since the Great Recession. But this time it’s not general economic woes, it’s online shopping and an over-saturation of physical stores causing the problems, analysts said.

“From everything you read you would think that retailers are dying out,” said Betsy Goodman, who heads the retailing program at the University of Florida. “The online business has had some impact, but it doesn’t account for all the closures we’ve seen. It’s the stores that aren’t adapting that are dying.”

And it will likely continue, she said, especially with some older retail chains.

Goodman will be part of a panel this week called “The Retail Apocalypse: Fake News,” hosted by the Central Florida NAOIP, a trade association for commercial real estate professionals. According the event’s organizers, the panel will discuss how malls and shopping centers are filling the gaps left by closed national chains.

She’s among those who think physical stores will have a long future, but she said there will be more closures in the months to come.

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