A Retail Renaissance?

I spent some time with a recent research report from the ILH Group called “Retail’s Renaissance – True Story of Store Openings/Closings.” In this study, they looked at the last three years of all segments of brick-and-mortar retail stores and discovered some facts that counter what we hear in the news.

In the media, we only hear bad things about physical stores. Chains are closing, malls are dying, buyers are only buying online, etc. And yet, quoting from their August 13, 2019 press release:

More than five retail chains are opening stores for every retailer that is closing stores in 2019…. This is up from 3.7 in 2018. The company also reports that the number of chains adding stores in 2019 has increased 56%, while the number of closing stores has decreased by 66% in the last year….

Since 2017, apparel and department store chains have seen the net closure of 9,651 stores. During this same period, all other segments represented 18,226 net new openings.

The VP of research for the ILH Group said further:

“U.S. retail has increased $565 billion in sales since January of 2017, fed not just by online sales growth but net store sales growth,” said Lee Holman, VP of Research for IHL Group. “Clearly there is significant pressure in apparel and department stores, however, in every single retail segment there are more chains that are expanding their number of stores than closing stores.”

Of course one has to dig into the data to see what they are talking about. Retail, by their definition, includes any type of retail operation open to the public. Restaurants, grocery stores, clothing stores, departments stores, and bookstores are among the data. (It is interesting to note that the Dollar Store chain is growing by leaps and bounds.)

Their bottom line is that retail is still alive and well in the U.S. It is simply changing to match consumer demand.

When we dig even deeper, we find that sports/hobby/bookstore sales are down 6.7%. No surprise there. We’ve all seen the shrinkage in Bass Pro Shops and the demise of various bookstore chains.

Which brings me to my point. We’ve all heard a lot these past few years, including on this blog, about the struggles of Christian retail. And yet this past week the Parable Group and the Covenant group in cooperation with “Get it Local Today” released an interactive map showing where to find one of 1,800 Christian bookstores around the U.S. While many of the locations might be small or run as a church bookstore, they are still there serving their communities. Below is the map and the link to the store finder:

Here is the link to the interactive map: Click Here

From the press release: “This database represents the largest online directory of verified independent Christian retailers today…. ‘These 1,800 retailers are important lighthouses—their communities need them, as do their Christian publishers and vendors,’ says Greg Squires, President of The Parable Group. ‘This research demonstrates that there is a substantial group of indies that should not be overlooked or abandoned.'”

I leave you with a thought and a picture of my grandson enjoying a local bookstore only a couple weeks ago.

So before we join the screaming masses and declare that all retail is dead, we need to dig a little to find a different story.





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