News Analysis: Brick-and-mortar stores to continue locking doors unless they make changes

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-04 18:43:06|Editor: xuxin
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NEW YORK, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Traditional brick-and-mortar stores in the United States will continue to be closed unless they make changes to cater to consumers' needs in the new era, experts have said.

The famous department store chain Lord & Taylor officially closed its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, on Wednesday.

The 11-storey building was a landmark in New York's most prestigious shopping area for over a century, boasting animated holiday windows and fine selection of jewelleries and clothing, and attracting city dwellers and tourists alike.

Lord & Taylor was among some of the big U.S. retailer names that closed stores in recent years after years of unsatisfying sales, layoffs and the growth of online purchases.

In October, U.S. retailer Sears filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to close 142 more stores countrywide towards the end of 2018 in addition to the previously announced closure of 46 unprofitable stores. The last time the retailer made a profit was in 2010.

Toys "R" Us and Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy respectively in 2017 and 2018. Macy's and JCPenney, among others, had announced a list of locations to be shuttered.

Over the past year, retail chains have shrunk their footprint even in New York city where people's purchasing power is higher than most of other U.S. cities.

The number of local chain-store locations fell by 27, or 0.3 percent, to 7,849 in 2018, according to the annual study by Center for an Urban Future, which tracks 331 national retailers with at least two locations in New York and at least one outside the city.

"It's a big change. In the 11 years we've been doing this annual report, we've never before seen a year-over-year drop in the number of chain stores," said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the center.

Analysts of retail industry said the real cause for store closing and bankruptcy was retailers' inability to change with the times.

William J. Carroll, president emeritus of the Benedictine University, said Sears is a very old and popular retail chain that has been a key resources for Americans for decades. However, as America has changed with the apparent consumer behavior shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping platforms, Sears continued to do business in the old way and did not take advantage of the new sales models.

Experts said brick-and-mortar stores will be harder pressed to keep up with online retailers as time goes on.

"As Amazon and others are able to shrink the delivery time, the greater will become our reliability on them," said Carroll, adding that as internet sales dominate the market in the coming years, at some point the brick-and-mortar stores will be reinvested.

U.S. top online retailers have already taken steps to expand their physical footprint. In September, Amazon opened a new bricks-and-mortar store located on 72 Spring Street in New York's SoHo neighborhood, selling top-rated products from its online shop.

All products in the New York location, ranging from kitchenware, consumer electronics, books, game and toys, are items sold and rated 4 stars or above in its online store.

The world top online retailer has been pursuing an aggressive plan to expand its online retailing business to the bricks-and-mortar sector since it officially launched the first cashier-less grocery store Amazon Go in Seattle, Washington State in January 2018.

Besides the Seattle store, another two Amazon Go shops are also open to the public in Chicago and Illinois. Media reports said that Amazon is considering increasing its self-serviced, automated cashier-less convenience stores to around 3,000 across the U.S. by 2020.