Macy’s yesterday announced it was closing a whole bunch of stores across the country. Sears is rumored to be on the edge of total collapse. Management at both companies is blaming the internet for their travails.
I spent some time in Macy’s and Sears over the holiday shopping season. I don’t think their problem is competition with online retailers. I think a lot of it is their merchandise just isn’t appealing. (In addition to Christmas shopping, I’m renovating a 5,000 SF church, so I need all kinds of stuff.) Their retail model is dated, especially Sears which just seems to pile up stuff haphazardly throughout their stores. It’s just not fun shopping in a store where it looks like no one gives a crap. It probably didn’t help Macy’s that they dropped their Donald Trump line of menswear (because the management assumed since they hated Trump, everybody else did too), or that Sears outsourced production of Craftsman tools to China.
I’m not an expert in “Retail Science,” but if I were in charge of either chain, my strategy would be to fall back and regroup. Forget about being a national retailer for a while and become a strong regional retailer. Hire local people as buyers and tailor inventory to regional tastes. I would also invest in the ‘shopping experience.’ One of the reason chains like Wegmans, Publix, and Nordstrom seem to weather the change is that they make coming into their stores a pleasing experience.
I’m an outlier, but I don’t think the internet spells doom for all brick-and-mortar retailers. But the companies that run them need to recognize that shopping habits have changed. Shopping at a store in the mall is no longer a necessity, so you better give people a reason to come out and recognize that shopping patterns have changed. If I am shopping for bed linens, I want to be able to touch and feel them. I also want a pretty big selection to choose from. OTOH, if I am shopping for power tools, then I’m going to go online, read reviews, and go for the best value. There are also things I just want right away, and don’t want to wait for delivery of. e.g. If I’m painting a room, I’m going to buy brushes and tape locally. That kind of stuff.
So, clean up your damn stores, have better merchandise, and teach your employees to be nice but not pushy, and you’ll get through this.