These are tough times for the U.S. retail industry, with stores closing at a record pace so far in 2017. It’s no secret why: Amazon is gobbling up more and more sales of clothing, electronics, and other items that once drew shoppers to department stores and malls. The grocery business has been a safe haven in recent years. Only about 1 percent of the roughly $1.5 trillion industry has moved online. That’s made supermarkets an attractive real estate tenant in an era when other shopping has moved from the mall to the living room couch.
American retailers are closing stores at a record pace this year as they feel the fallout from decades of overbuilding and the rise of online shopping. Based on the pace so far, the brokerage estimates retailers will close more than 8,600 locations this year, which would eclipse the number of closings during the 2008 recession.
Since October, about 89,000 workers in general merchandise stores have lost their jobs, which is more than the number of people employed in the entire US coal industry, The New York Times reported. . . The retail industry, which employs about one out of every 10 American workers, typically pays low wages but provides employment to people in every age bracket, as well as those who are low-skilled and need flexible scheduling options.
So when these workers lose their jobs, they can have a hard time finding other employment.
The profound reordering of New York’s shopping scene reflects a broad restructuring in the American retail industry.
E-commerce players, led by the industry giant Amazon, have made it so easy and fast for people to shop online that traditional retailers, shackled by fading real estate and a culture of selling in stores, are struggling to compete. This shift has been building gradually for years. But economists, retail workers and real estate investors say it appears that it has sped up in recent months.
Between 2010 and 2014, e-commerce grew by an average of $30 billion annually. Over the past three years, average annual growth has increased to $40 billion.
Retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2% last month, the Commerce Department said Friday, after a revised 0.3% decline in February. But over the last 12 months, retail sales have risen 5.2%, a sign that that the economy remains on stable footing.
Still, there are indications that consumers are growing more cautious even though the unemployment rate declined in March to a low 4.5%. Steady job growth as the recovery from the Great Recession nears its eighth year and a bump in consumer sentiment following President Trump's presidential election have yet to strengthen spending much.
Since the start of 2017, Americans have actually cut back on purchases at auto dealers and restaurants and bars, two major sources of sales gains in prior years. Sales dipped 1.5% last month at auto dealers and 0.6% at restaurants and bars. It was the second straight monthly drop in sales for both categories.