The idea of a retail apocalypse has gained so much credence in the US that it even has its own Wikipedia entry. There was bad news aplenty in 2017—retailers announced a total of 7,000 store closings in the first three quarters—and with half of US shopping malls expected to close by 2023, there are few signs of an end to the bloodbath.
However, what’s often missed in this news? The Darwinian process by which retail is evolving is starting to bear fruit. While myriad stores closed in 2017, over 3,000 new stores opened. The apocalypse is beginning to abate, as both retailers and direct- to-consumer brands begin to show signs that they can live and breathe in a channel-agnostic world if they strike the appropriate balance between a right-sized physical footprint and a digitally-powered marketing and fulfillment strategy.
Striking this balance is no longer the exclusive purview of digital-first brands like Warby Parker or Away, as traditional players like Target, Walmart, and Size find a way to reinvigorate their store experiences while crafting omnichannel marketing and purchase paths. For example, Target now provides its store sales associates with mobile point-of-sale devices to fulfill customer requests for delivery, adding speed and convenience to in-store shopping. Meanwhile, Size, a UK chain offering designer sneakers, athleisure, and accessories, converted an apartment above its Covent Garden store into a dedicated collection point, allowing online shoppers to collect their orders without having to enter the store.