The Future of Retail Has Never Been Murkier

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On a recent Friday night family outing, I found myself in a Pittsburgh area shopping mall that bears the familiar scars found on thousands of other once-dominant temples of retail. One of the main anchors had been a 200,000 square foot Sears — now a dark, empty cavern waiting to be repurposed. 

Gone also are a number of bankrupt retailers whose days were numbered well before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020. J.C. Penney is hanging on but occupies about half the space it once did. Traffic was notably sparse for a Friday night.

The past 30+ years of my professional life have been all about the retail and tech industry, developing tools and research techniques for forecasting and understanding the consumer. As I walked the mall I reflected on the fact that “the experts” have been telling us for the past few years that malls are dying. Yet I was surprised to find a few relative newcomers I’d never heard of opening stores in this mall.

Ticknors is a Beachwood, Ohio-based chain of nine upscale (bespoke) men’s clothing stores that is only four years old and opened its Pittsburgh location less than a year ago, in the middle of the pandemic. Fashion footwear retailer, Shoe Fly, operates about a dozen stores in Pennsylvania and Virginia. And Evereve, I learned, is a Minnesota-based fashion retailer of “brands curated for moms,” with about 100 stores they also opened a store here in the height of the pandemic and is still going strong. 

I have been wondering if these are just dandelions sprouting out of the rubble of the mall meltdown, soon to wither and go to seed. Or perhaps is this evidence of the micro-targeting (vs. department stores) toward which the business of retail seems to be trending?

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retailers  New Brands  future of retail  shopping mall

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