Will the Great American Department be extinct or will it adapt to survive? Is it an end of an era or the dawn a new order?


Throughout our country's history, the big box retail department store have been the classic example of great American business. But throughout time, these retail giants have been thwarted with one obstacle after another from trying to source everything under the sun under one roof to cutting cost & competition by inventory control from point of origin to point of sale, and negotiating exclusive contracts with brand vendors to include producing internal store brands and so on and forth; all while negotiating endless real world problems of law suits, liabilities, employee relations, operating costs, ect. And throughout time, the great American retail department has adapted to a changing world pressing forward and flourishing, if it were an animal, we would say all of these changes and challenges that retailers face are merely the process of evolution and stores who evolved exemplifies Darwin's 'survival of the fittest'

So now that these retail department store chains such as Macys and Sears come to yet another roadblock leading to store closures and downsizing; should we be alarmed or concerned> Is there something these retailers are not doing, or should be doing? Do they need to implement technical advances or system modernization and a greater social media & global presence to combat their online counterparts. Maybe its ideology, that these corporate conglomerates need to embrace like sustainability, eco-friendly green practices, environmental concern & community relations, employee quality of life and product sourcing transparency.-is it?

Or is it simply the ending of a great thing whose time has come and gone? Perhaps its nothing more than a evolving world of the changing needs & concerns of its vast multi-cultural societies. Just as Main Street USA retail department store left downtown to build in neighborhood suburbs then to the Shopping Mall revolution and onto the Towne Center outdoors concept of outdoor parks of Outlet & Boutique Specialty stores; is it just business evolution and the retail department store 'species' is becoming extinct? Does it make sense to intervene and try to save it, should we? There was a time when the milkman delivered to homes, even the water truck stopped.and gone away are movie drive-ins, video rental chains like Blockbuster, ect. So why not retail department stores? Oh, as laws of physics dictate, matter is never created nor destroyed but just changes composition so the giant brick & motars can diminish but their presence will be transferred into the virtual world, boutique outlets, partnered brand concepts and remaining bits gobbled up by smaller independent retailers quickly moving into the spaces left by these antiquated, relics of American business.

Someone please give me your point of view on this- What do you think?

Shopping Centers
Department Stores
American Business
Online Retail
Brick & Mortar and e-Retailing Development and Management
Business Model Development
Retail Repositioning
68 months ago

6 answers


Retail is very cyclical and companies that fail to adapt to new consumer trends and demographic shifts will struggle to grow.
Customers still enjoy going to stores for a great shopping experience and I believe brick & mortar locations will continue to be a strong part of a multi channel retail experience. The free market and innovative leaders will find a way to flourish in the retail landscape of today and the future.

Charles Montenegro
68 months ago

I think it is natural evolution.

People will always want to shop, but they want unique things that small shops provide. The small independent retailers and purveyors of handmade items are finding their way back into our communities. These shops give communities an identity and help bring in visitors.

I believe that you will always need grocery stores for immediate last minute items and fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit, but the everyday items in life can be delivered, at set times - both reorders and delivery.

Some consumer needs will still require face to face interactions due to trust issues and/or lack of knowledge. I.E. Phones et al, insurance, pharmacies, clothing, etc.

Also Local, State and Federal laws demand some things are bought in person. For example: guns (hopefully), wine, liquor, tobacco products, etc.

I don't think the big boxes are going to disappear completely, especially in high density population areas, but I do think, for the most part that they will shrink. For example, we have a Walmart Shop that just opened that is only groceries and pharmacy. It supplies the surrounding neighborhoods, but not furniture, clothing, homegoods, or office supplies. Much smaller foot print, much less costs.

Margi Marsh
68 months ago

The question is well versed.

The trend is happening globally.

I believe it is a evolution, another phase of “survival of the fittest”.

Big department stores run slower because many services they provide can now be met through other channels and more cheaply, e.g. the on-line channels. But there are other services that are exclusively provided by the department stores, that are more and more important to the customers, and cannot be met by Amazon or the like. For example, with their good locations, the department stores can be a nice part of people’s overall living experience (instead of just shopping experience). In Taiwan, Chenping Book Store is becoming a place educated young people would go for spending their off-work time.

Clara Wong 王渝佳
68 months ago

I have completely different opinion on this topic based on my reading of study reports published on this topic

The major disadvantages of online stores are w.r.t.
·        Customer needs to pay shipping and handling charges
·        Have different exchange/refund policy for returns
·        Fails to provide social or family buying experiences
·        Unable to provide feeling about the helpfulness of salespeople,
·        post-purchase service
·        Have lots of uncertainty about getting the right item in right time
The only advantages of online shopping are w.r.t.
·        Easy brand-selection from thousands of collections
·        Availability of large numbers of variants
·        Ease of browsing experience without any hindrance/shyness

The disadvantages of online shopping are so many that small advantages could not completely mitigate the disadvantages of online shopping. Practically speaking, online shopping had a complementary relationship with in-store shopping frequency and online shopping increase in-store shopping occasion. Major portions of store buyer used online shopping for information search and major portion of online buyers made trips to store for acquiring direct information and experience.
Therefore, online shopping in combination with in-store shopping (hybrid shopping) enables consumers to acquire product information and experience product, and easy transactions.

One possible solutions to tackle the challenge is

·        Provide the consumers online shopping experience in the store it-self

Samares B
68 months ago

This is a multi faceted question. The department store has not come to an end, however, there is far too much brick & mortar retail space in the United States and that is why stores are closing. Simply, they are expanded and need to scale back to handle the current demand. The experience of shopping in a brick & mortar building will be long lasting for a variety of reasons, especially for the instant gratification of the purchase and the ability to touch, feel and try the product. American retailers do need to review their current customer service and go back to the days of providing this, especially for high end/luxury department stores. The customer relies on the sales associate for their extensive knowledge when making a purchase and this is irreplaceable.
Online retail will continue to grow as it has not yet reached its peak, however, there are some facts about running an online business that do not make the business headlines. First, the failure rate of an online retailer is extremely high, very few survive for the long term. Second, the return rate for online product is higher than that in brick & mortar stores. This adds to additional processing costs for the retailer. Thirdly, the online retailer needs to be able to compete with the larger sites that are taking advantage of economies of scale. Because so many of them are newer, they do not yet have the legacy costs, but there are several other exponential costs.
Main Street shopping has seen a resurgence, think about the Shop Local campaigns, thus this type of shopping is not gone, it shifted. Many malls in warmer climates are outdoor malls to mimic the Main Stream shopping.
Millennials prefer shopping in brick & mortar over online. It makes perfect sense to all consumers to use their mobile device when shopping, but the intangible aspects of shopping in brick & mortar cannot be replaced.

Patty Soltis
68 months ago

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Margret had
4 months ago

Have some input?