Cool Shoes- Why Retail isn’t Dying
Recently, while visiting my family in Virginia for Mother’s Day, I was peppered with the expected questions about my travels, relationship and life in New York. One I didn’t anticipate from my small-town family-
“Is retail dying? What’s all this news about stores closing?”
I’ve spent the bulk of my waking hours building fashion brands and retail businesses and recently, this question is a repeating headline in the media world. Vertical mall-based retailers and department stores are closing stores because the economics have changed in line with customer shopping preferences. Does that mean that Retail is Dead?
My answer to them? No, it keeps changing, just as it always has. Each generation creates and chooses a new way of buying and consuming and those changes always challenge existing expectations.
Yesterday I passed a relic of the analog age- a Payphone on the corner in Greenwich Village in New York. Remember those? They’ve completely disappeared. If you were investing in the early ’90s , it would have seemed like a solid bet to put your dollars into Payphone operators- a needed product, a steady income stream, and a capital intensive business that creates a barrier to entry. A decade later, that business evaporated because of mobile devices. Communicating hasn’t stopped- it has changed.
Shopping is the same. Online shopping is convenient and with unlimited choice. In-store shopping is social, local, and immediate. We shop based on what works for us and for most of us, we use every method- I buy groceries online but prefer to shop for shoes in person. E-commerce and physical stores are both options, just as catalog shopping and local department stores were the primary choices a century ago.
Brands built out huge retail networks with large stores based on mall shopping patterns, but now the rents and operating costs aren’t affordable with the lower traffic of today’s multi-channel shopper. Companies that adapt, put the consumer (me!) at the center of everything, and create great experiences will thrive. The rest will go the way of the Payphone.
You know what hasn’t changed? The awesome feeling I get when someone says to me- “Hey, cool shoes”.