As Retail Stores Close, Where Are The Jobs Going?

By Suzette Parmley
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Experts say shopping is taking a new form thanks to the internet. Michael Niemira, principal of the Retail Economist LLC, likened online shopping to the catalog sales of the early 20th century that supplied goods to consumers in areas where stores did not exist.

PHILADELPHIA

In late April, struggling women’s apparel chain Bebe said it was closing all 180 stores, the latest casualty amid a steady stream of defaults, bankruptcies and closures over the last year.

While experts say more closures are coming, something else is occurring: The losses of traditional retail jobs are being absorbed by the likes of Amazon, with its new fulfillment centers and warehouses.

But shopping is taking a new form, experts say, thanks to the internet.

Michael Niemira, principal of the Retail Economist LLC, likened online shopping to the catalog sales of the early 20th century that supplied goods to consumers in areas where stores did not exist.

“Today, some communities are losing stores that are not profitable, and the online distribution is filling the gap as catalog sales once did,” he said. The survivors will “stay alert to demographic and shopping trends” with fewer stores.

It’s why Target Corp. is going with smaller format stores while investing $7 billion in new IT over the next three years.

And it’s why megastore Wal-Mart went on a shopping spree, starting last year, to buy online firms, such as jet.com, to offset its weaknesses. Its latest target, reports suggest, is online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos.

Digitally native brands, such as Away, Bonobos and Warby Parker, are creating a new kind of retail store, suggested David Bell, a marketing professor at the Wharton School.

It’s a “zero inventory, high-experience store” in which customers enter an amazing space, get a brand experience and buy items that are shipped to them.

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