In this, my 100th and final (except for an occasional contribution) Retail Rap, I wanted to tackle the big question: What’s next? Where is the retail industry — particularly brick-and-mortar — headed in the months and years ahead?
All good things must come to end — including, after nearly four years, my contributions to this column. “Retail Rap” will soon be forging on without me. This is the first of two final columns I’ll be contributing, and I’ll beg your indulgence if I wax nostalgic at times in this, column number 99, and in my last submission two weeks from now, Retail Rap number 100.
When Whole Foods Market announced in May that it planned to open a new chain of stores offering a lower price point and specifically targeting millennials, it’s safe to say that the reaction from industry analysts and observers was underwhelming.
I just got back from the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) 2015 RECon Convention in Las Vegas, and I came away feeling as good as I have about the state of the industry in some time (and it wasn’t just the weather, which was delightfully on the cool side). Judging by the buzz on the floor at the convention center, the action was definitely heating up.
In a column I wrote between Black Friday and Christmas last year, I talked about how “apparel sales have been languishing”, and I mentioned that the “industry buzz is all about the struggles in apparel, where retailers just can’t seem to discount clothing enough to get things to pick up.”
There has been a lot of discussion in the last several years about the strength of the grocery sector. I think it’s clear that a big reason behind that success has been the evolution of different formats and the explosive growth of a new generation of grocery concepts that represent a significant departure from the traditional grocery model.
One of the interesting retail real estate trends I’ve been seeing pick up steam in the last couple of years is the willingness of many retailers to look beyond the traditional mall locations. Many are choosing locations on “hot streets,” bustling avenues within major communities that happen to be the retail hub, or in the downtown/village center area of the market.
Overall holiday shopping season sales numbers have been rolling in, and the news confirms what many retail real estate analysts (including myself) suspected: 2014 holiday sales were strong. Nothing earth-shattering — but plenty good enough to chalk this one up as a win.