Roseville High School's independent student press

FAST FASHION: The Retail Apocalypse

November 18, 2019

At the Westfield Galleria Mall at Roseville, many stores have seen a lack of traffic. Pictured below, the mall is empty on a Friday, partially due to the convenience of online shopping. 

Over the course of what’s been almost a decade, Americans have seen a significant decline in retail across the nation. The rise of e-commerce giant Amazon has given big names in the industry like Target, Walmart, and Sears a run for their money.

(MEGAN HUBER / EYE OF THE TIGER)

This is a trend that we’ve seen not only nationally, but locally as well. The Galleria lost Sears a year and a half ago, as well as Aeropostale beginning to close, but thankfully went back into business. The Galleria has been fortunate enough to keep other fast fashion stores that are threatened, like Forever 21 and H&M. But whether or not it’ll last forever has yet to be determined.

For almost three decades now, e-commerce has continuously grown to become a retail empire. It first really began to take form in the 90’s, but it was the early to mid 2000’s where it really developed. The biggest online store, Amazon, is one of, if not the biggest contributor to this rise of e-commerce. 

In 1995, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon and within two years, the webstore had one million customers, with revenues jumping to $610 million by 1998. Since then, the online webstore has grown to be a worldwide corporation, and a household name. 

Amazon has grown to become one of the biggest competitors in the retail industry today, next to companies like Walmart, Target, and Macy’s. This is where retail competitors have seen a major decline. A study showed that some 51% of Americans prefer online shopping, while the remaining 49% prefer to shop in-stores. 

However, the average consumer only makes about 19 online purchases per year. So when it comes down to the dollar, 64% of Americans actually spend their money in stores, while the remaining 36% of Americans purchase online. But of this group, 87% of consumers begin their shopping search online.

(MEGAN HUBER / EYE OF THE TIGER)

Many businesses, both big and small, have shut down many locations, or altogether, due to the rise of e-commerce. This trend has been dubbed “Retail Apocalypse.” Businesses like Payless and Forever 21 both filed for bankruptcy, as well as the department store Sears, which has been a retail giant in America for over a century now. 

Sears went from over 3,500 locations to 222 nationwide- a shocking turn for one of the largest stores in America. And, by January 2020, Sears is expected to drop down to a total 126 nationwide locations. While Payless completely liquidated, Sears and Forever 21 still have some stores open, as the many they closed down were to restructure the future of the brands. 

Even department store Macy’s let some 5,000 people go, and closed seven of its stores. To say the Retail Apocalypse is a myth would be a lie. It’s definitely real and it’s definitely happening. But with the rise of e-commerce, like everything else, comes the eventual fall of e-commerce. It’s safe to say that technology is the future, and online shopping is here to stay, but it won’t completely demolish in-store shopping.

Consumers like to shop in-stores because it allows them to really get to know the product they’re considering for purchase. They can feel it, look at it, and really get a sense of what it is in person. That’s a kind of personal experience you don’t get with online shopping. Not to mention over half of online consumers are more likely to return products bought online. 

These retail changes are affecting consumers nationwide, as well as students here at RHS. Forever 21, H&M, Aeropostale, and Abercrombie are all stores that have been affected by the Retail Apocalypse. Retailers like these are places students often purchase from every year for clothing, accessories, and even perfume or cologne. This is big for the student body, as it could change the way we shop in the future years.

While this affects our generation, it’s hard to be completely faultless after perpetuating and contributing to the rise of the internet and the online world. Millennials and Gen-Zers all are a major part of social media and internet activity, both positive and negative.

(MEGAN HUBER / EYE OF THE TIGER)

And because we grew up with technology in a way our parents didn’t, we’re much more advanced with it and inclined to use it in more ways. Thus, our contribution to the online world of shopping began. Which in turn would start the ever-evolving war between in-store shopping and online shopping.

There will always be competition between online and in-store shopping, like anything else. And this probably won’t be the last time stores have to close their doors for good. With Black Friday coming up, it’ll give a real test to both stores and websites. 

It’s hard to tell when the Retail Apocalypse will die down or end, but nothing lasts forever.

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