Retail is Hardly “Dead”

“The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated!”
~ Mark Twain

Like Chicken Little proclaiming the demise of the sky, TheStreet has spent the past week reporting on “the death of retail.” They cited the loss of 89,000 retail jobs since October (and 61,000 just in February and March) and a “wave” of store closings by nearly 20 well-known retailers as signs that retail’s time has come.

Retail isn’t dying. It can’t die. Retail is how consumers buy goods. Even at “wholesale” prices a sale directly to a consumer, and not through a distributor, is a retail sale.

Retail methods are just changing to adapt to new technologies and new consumer habits. Online shopping, which allows shoppers to shop multiple stores simultaneously for best price/performance comparison, is much more convenient and economical than driving around from store to store or walking a mall. But even while JC Penney, Macy’s, and several other retailers are closing stores and laying off workers because of the rise in e-commerce, online evangelist Amazon is opening brick-n-mortar locations to serve as retail outlets, showrooms, and shipping/return sites. To develop and staff these locations Amazon is planning on hiring 100,000 additional employees in the next 18 months (a little tidbit of info the TheStreet buried in its “death” story).

This does raise the question that with the new locations and people, will Amazon be able to continue to offer the lowest prices for their products and services? Pricing, convenience, and perceived quality are what will always drive retail sales, and the companies who can deliver these (and maybe even add cash back components and revenue-generating strategies) will serve their customers and grow.

The real story here is the death of job security for the retail worker. While Amazon alone will be responsible for creating more jobs than were reportedly lost since October, TheStreet also said that Home Depot and Lowe’s, combined, were planning on hiring 125,00 seasonal workers for the spring and summer. For those who depend on retail jobs, they now find themselves moving from store to store based on seasonal needs and with no guarantee they’ll be hired next season. Employees unhappy with this new scenario – regardless of age, gender, education, and experience – will have to learn new skills in order to secure more permanent types of positions, or become self-employed entrepreneurs who are free to adapt to the changing marketplace.

About Author: jspaone

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