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The Future of American Retail

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That said, the footprint of a typical Whole Foods can't be easily expanded to do what Wal-Mart does.  I'm sure Amazon knows that and has something else in mind.  Amazon's business model relies on distribution centers that basically dwarf any Wal-Mart, sending goods straight from such centers to consumers (whereas the "last mile" in the Wal-Mart business model is actually driven by the customer, and the same with Whole Foods).

 

The Whole Foods 365 that just came to Akron has Amazon lockers in it but I have no idea how much use they get or how much Amazon really intends to rely on them in integrating the businesses.  They occupy only a tiny portion of the store.  Amazon already had its Amazon@Akron location for in-person returns, which is definitely convenient for students and downtown workers.  Lockers can be used both for delivery and returns, but I don't know why one would choose Locker delivery when Amazon could instead just send a package straight to your house.  Maybe if you're worried about theft from a doorstep or something.

 

That said, I don't see how "the future of American retail" is much other than the Amazon business model.  Last-mile delivery is going to get even cheaper as the truck fleet electrifies, which will reduce both maintenance and fuel costs--and the Jevons Paradox effect will open up those energy savings for the more widespread use of more energy-intensive modes (e.g., refrigerated deliveries).  Distribution centers need not all be regional behemoths like the ones that it has started (in epochally appropriate fashion) building on the sites of dead malls; some could take the place of things like (this would also be appropriate) empty big box retail stores where those spaces are emptying out and becoming increasingly difficult to fill, and stock items that are in more constant demand.

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The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the decline of brick and mortar retail (which was of course already a declining industry).

 

Pier 1 is going out of business, so get your wicker furniture and seat cushions while you can

https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2020/05/pier-1-is-going-out-of-business-so-get-your-wicker-furniture-and-seat-cushions-while-you-can.html

 

They filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, hoping to find a buyer; they were unable to do so, in part because of the pandemic, though it would have been a challenge anyway.

 

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J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy just last weekend, and has announced plans to close just under 30% of its U.S. locations.  For the moment, they say that they intend to emerge from bankruptcy and refocus on their online retail, though online retail is an increasingly crowded space and they'll have their work cut out for them to distinguish themselves in it:

 

J.C. Penney to permanently shut about 242 stores as part of bankruptcy plan

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-jc-penney-bankruptcy/j-c-penney-to-permanently-shut-about-242-stores-as-part-of-bankruptcy-plan-idUSKBN22U2EK

 

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Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy on May 12.  Again, for the moment, the line is that they expect to emerge from bankruptcy restructuring later this year.

 

Neiman Marcus, a Symbol of Luxury, Files for Bankruptcy

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/07/business/neiman-marcus-bankruptcy.html

 

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I seem to have posted these links and updates in reverse chronological order.  Anyway, the first major retail casualty of the pandemic was J. Crew, which filed its bankruptcy petition on May 4.

 

J. Crew files for bankruptcy, the first national retail casualty of the coronavirus pandemic

A series of missteps, in both fashion and finance, left the onetime mall darling with stalling sales and huge debt

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/04/jcrew-bankruptcy-chapter-11-coronavirus/

 

That said, I don't think this quote from the article was intended to be taken literally as written:

 

As many as 25,000 stores could permanently close this year, according to liquidation firm Gordon Brothers, as businesses grapple with weeks-long closures and diminished demand for clothing, shoes and other nonessential items.

 

For the moment, we still consider clothing essential in my house and my boss considers it essential at the office, at least, though I understand the temptation of regression towards primitivism ...

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