The Real Change in Retail

Brian Gallagher

The past summer has highlighted the end of an era for three formerly major retailers.  Blockbuster Video has closed their last store in Alaska leaving one lone location remaining in Bend, Oregon.  Many of you may not have heard of Blockbuster but it was once the equivalent of Netflix for the movie industry.  I use to plan my weekends around new releases hitting a Blockbuster shelf.  Now we look for drop dates to binge watch a series.  In July, Sears closed its last remaining store in Chicago, the city that brought Sears to life. Maybe the biggest news were the final days of Toys-R-Us.  I suppose even children have news ways to shop for toys.  Oh, how times have changed—or have they?

These retail closings got me thinking about retail in my lifetime. We have all experienced the loss of a retail brand we thought could never go away. Depending on where you lived and your age, many of these names should be familiar: KB Toys, Woolworth’s, Service Merchandise, Tweeter, Sharper Image, Circuit City, Linens ’n Things, Thom McAn, Kaufmann’s, Tower Records, Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. They’re all closed now. I had many “firsts” in these stores. My first toy shopping for Matchbox cars with my dad, my first shoe shopping for school with mom, and my first stereo system bought with my grandma. No one insisted these chains closed their doors because of eCommerce. So why is our instinct to blame eCommerce now?

In reality, retail is always changing, and it can be hard to ignore the instinct to want to find something to blame. Maybe change is just change, and the message can be shared more loudly.

Today’s retail evolution is driven by a desire for new experiences. The world is smaller, product can all be found online, and stores now serve as the experience center. Did you know that retail sales have grown more than 40% since 2008? Did you know that, according to IHL, approximately 5,500 retail locations opened in 2017 and 4,080 closed? How about the fact that eCommerce sales were only about 12% of all retail sales in 2017 and even at 15% growth they will only be about 14% of all sales in 2018? Maybe we should share these facts more loudly.

Connection is uniquely positioned to support the transformation and growth of retail. Our strength in mobility solutions, digital marketing, security, store analytics, and more makes us an incredibly valuable resource. If you are a retail or hospitality provider, we know you are looking for ways to transform the customer and employee experience. If you need help identifying solutions or launching your solutions effectively, please reach out to Connection. Our Retail Team is designed to support your digital transformation.

I wonder what retailers will be around 25 years from now.

Brian is the Retail Strategy & Business Development Director at Connection. Brian joined Connection in 2016 as the Retail subject matter expert (SME) after leading National Store Operations teams for more than 20 years. Brian has a deep understanding of today’s Store Experience and Customer Engagement solutions requirements and works collaboratively with customers and partners to create complete business solutions to drive customer engagement and revenues. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling with his wife and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.