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Are We Really In The Middle Of A Retail Apocalypse?

Big retailers such as Macy's, Kmart, and Sears have plans to close even more stores in 2018.

Noon Edition airs Fridays at 12:00 p.m. on WFIU.

2017 was one of the worst years for the retail industry. It saw record-setting bankruptcies and thousands of store closures.

The steady decline of in-store traffic coupled with the rise of e-commerce has taken a toll on the nation’s largest and oldest department stores.

But online retailers cannot take all the blame. Consumers today are choosing to spend their money in different ways than before. So are we really in the midst of a “retail apocalypse?”

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists discussed the major changes taking place within the retail industry.


Andy McManis: Owner of Skirt & Satchel, Bloomington, IN

Steve Smith: Owner of Smith’s Shoe Center, Bloomington, IN

Les Morris: Director of Public Relations at Simon Property Group, Indianapolis, IN

Michael Hicks: Professor of Economics, Ball State University, Muncie, IN

Conversation: Are We Really In The Middle Of A Retail Apocalypse?

Our panelists each gave their perspectives on debunking the term “retail apocalypse.”

For Smith’s Shoe Center owner Steve Smith, the term “correction” is a better way to describe the changes we’re seeing in the industry.

“For someone that’s been in the shoe business for forty-plus years, you see a cyclical market. History repeats itself and we get too big and we need to size correct. I think that’s what we’re seeing the market do now,” Smith says.

Online stores such as Amazon have been pointed to as the downfall of brick-and-mortar stores, but Simon Property Group Public Relations Director Les Morris says he sees a trend in online retailers moving into physical spaces.

“We’re seeing internet retailers opening brick-and-mortar stores with us,” Morris says. “They’re expanding their brick-and-mortar presence because it expands their brand.”

Andy McManis is the owner of Skirt & Satchel, a new clothing store located in downtown Bloomington. Her business has both a brick-and-mortar store as well as an online shopping experience.

McManis says the conversation around the “retail apocalypse” is based on misunderstanding of how consumers shop today.

“You’re not going to have one customer who shops 100 percent online or 100 percent brink-and-mortar, and I think that’s what people aren’t realizing when they’re talking about the retail apocalypse,” McManis says.

Michael Ricks is a professor of economics at Ball State. He says we should not underestimate the industry’s ability to change and grow over time.

“I think it would be crazy to dismiss the notion that consumers aren’t going to get sophisticated, that retailers aren’t going to get more sophisticated,” Ricks says.

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