Retail Is In Trouble

Many people shop in January to take advantage of after-Christmas sales. I am one of those, having been to the outlet malls and other malls recently. I am amazed at the lack of customers shopping in physical stores. While I realize that some people prefer online shopping, I prefer to get up close and personal with the merchandise. Either I am in the minority preferring to shop in physical stores, or fewer people are shopping in general. While the lack of customers may be good from a COVID standpoint, from a retail standpoint, it worries me. We need retail to get back to normal if our economy is going to begin to return to normal.

Sales are prevalent, yet the sales do not seem to be making much of an impact. While I did buy more because many items are on sale, I did not do any impulse buying. I had a list of what I wanted/needed to buy, and pretty much stuck to it. Sales are good for those who wait for the sales before making a purchase, yet something being on sale is no reason to buy. If we don’t need it before it goes on sale, there is no reason for us to buy it just because it is on sale.

While shopping I also did not buy some items that I considered, deciding that I could do with what I had in that category until another season comes around. If I have been fine with wearing the number of pants and tops that I have had this season before now, why would I need to buy more, even if they are on sale? Also, I know that I wear the same clothes most of the time, leaving some perfectly good clothes hanging in the closet. Given this, why should I buy more? What I should do before even considering purchasing anything else new is go through my closet and get rid of items I have obviously not been wearing. My daughter and granddaughters had a major purge in their closets last week. I need to do the same.

While my choices may be good for my personal budget, they are not good for the economy in general, particularly in the short term, especially if my choices are indicative of a trend. On the other hand, perhaps the trends can be the beginning of changes that could improve quality and perhaps even costs. I would like to see manufacturers and retailers pay attention to the trends, and make fewer items of better quality, beginning to turn the tide of excess inventory of poor-quality items.

Another trend may be a factor in less purchasing. There is a lot of noise online about decluttering, and there are many books about that subject in stores and online. The philosophy behind decluttering includes paring down, not just clearing spaces. I believe this trend is also a factor in people buying less. What is not yet clear is whether the purchasing power is shifting to other things, such as experiences and electronics instead of clothes and personal products.

Retail stores are in trouble, even if retail purchasing isn’t. How long will malls be able to hang on without walk-in customers? The sheer cost of the real estate makes malls and other stores without sufficient foot traffic in danger of closing their doors. This has already begun happening, and I predict we will see more of this in the near future.

What can be done to help keep retail strong? In addition to retail being an important part of our communities, there is a financial incentive to keep retail strong since we depend on its tax revenue.

Loyalty should begin at home. When we can, we should shop local, vowing to keep our small businesses in business. While I am an Amazon Prime customer and doubt that anything I do will change the strength of Amazon, when I can, I should support local businesses that have the same or similar merchandise. Our daughter is a great example of this. She bought gift cards from her local independent bookseller for her three daughters for a year of books. A few customers that are this committed to a local business could be the difference in a business staying in business.

What about you? What are you doing to keep retail strong in your communities? What can we all begin doing?  

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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