We’re sure you’re tired of hearing about the ‘retail apocalypse’ — so we will refrain from using the phrase here.
But, buzzword or not, there is clear evidence that both retail sales and ad spend continue their downward trend in the face of a newer, younger audience and the upswing of eCommerce.
In fact, nearly 7,000 retail stores have closed down in 2019 so far. And, according to one report, eCommerce sales growth was triple that of core retail sales year-over-year. MediaRadar research found that US retail sales and print ad investment by retailers have seen a downward trend for the past decade — with a crystal clear correlation between declining sales and print ad spend.
MediaRadar Research: Retail Sales & Ad Spend Down Concurrently
MediaRadar compared US retail sales from 2007 to 2018 (taken from US Census data) to spending on print ad advertising in the same time period. The measure focused on one particularly besieged industry in the US: department stores.
Both are down independently — print ad spending by retailers has been cut in half since 2008, while retail sales have dropped by nearly $8 billion.
What’s more interesting is the correlation between these two sinking numbers. As retail sales have dropped, print ad spending has dropped a commensurate amount in the following year.
This points to a pinch for print publishers. As retail sales fall, big box stores and retailers either cut their ad spend across the board or shift their ad dollars to other, digital mediums.
Trend or Trial? Where Retail is Headed
It’s part of the search for the new market. Lauren Thomas at CNBC reports: “Department store operators haven’t figured out how to bring customers into stores, when more and more customers are opting to buy things online from places such as Amazon, Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix or are heading directly to brands such as Nike and Kate Spade, skipping a trip to the mall.”
The declining numbers are also reflective of a wider trend. Fox Business lists a host of retailers that have either shut down completely or dramatically cut back their brick and mortar operations. The list includes:
- Abercrombie & Fitch is going more digital while closing hundreds of stores.
- American Apparel went bankrupt way back in 2017, a harbinger of what was to come.
- The Children’s Place is slated to close many locations by 2020 in order to focus on digital channels.
- Fred’s closed over 100 locations by the end of June 2019.
- Footlocker is closing 165 locations and has plans to ‘upgrade’ its remaining locations.
- Gap spun off its Old Navy brand and closed 50 percent of its stores.
- J.C. Penney, long dogged by the shifting market, is closing 26 more locations in 2019.
“The rise of ecommerce outlets like Amazon has made it harder for traditional retailers to attract customers to their stores and forced companies to change their sales strategies,” concludes Thomas Barrabi in the Fox Business article. “Many companies have turned to sales promotions and increased digital efforts to lure shoppers while shutting down brick-and-mortar locations.”
Is this a conversation about a true ‘retail apocalypse’ or simply a shift in how consumers buy things? Unclear, we say.
Early this year, Greg Petro predicted that millennials would shift their spending to digital and luxury brands while Baby Boomers would constrict their spending altogether. That’s one explanation for the shape our research has taken on.
With these shifts, some retailers are adjusting their strategy accordingly. This could be as much a conversation about digitally dexterous big box stores (see: WalMart) and recalibrated retail brands (see: Old Navy) as it is about retail’s replacement with direct to consumer and eCommerce.
And it’s one we look forward to engaging in.