Brick & Mortar Meltdown Hits These Stores the Most

They’re the primary stores at malls.

It happens category by category as commerce shifts bit-by-bit to the Internet: Music stores and video stores got wiped out first, then came bookstores. Shops that are able to offer something the Internet does not offer can thrive, but the overall brick-and-mortar bookstore category is a mere shadow of its former self. Department stores got hit hard starting in 2001. Over the past few years, shoe stores got hit, when 15 years ago everyone said that no one would ever buy shoes online. Sporting goods stores are under fire. Small toy stores got mostly wiped out by big toy stores, such as Toys “R” Us, and by Walmart, Target, and other large retailers, But now the Internet is taking out the big toy stores…

Toys “R” Us, which filed for bankruptcy protection last September, had, not unexpectedly, a terrible holiday selling season. The holiday season would have been key for its survival in restructured form, and so it’s spiraling into oblivion.

It already obtained court approval earlier in February to close 182 stores in the US and shed 4,500 workers along with them. Now it plans to close another 200 stores in the US and lay off more people, the Wall Street Journal reported last night, based on its sources. After the new round of store closings, the retailer will have slashed its footprint in the US by about half since the bankruptcy filing. Part of the blame goes to its inability – overburdened by debt as it was – to build a vibrant online presence.

Nevertheless, people still say that e-commerce is only a small-ish part of overall retail, and that it’s therefore really no big deal. In Q4, the e-commerce share of retail was 9.1%, though up from 8.2% a year ago. But e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter soared nearly 17% from a year ago – the largest jump since Q1 2012 – to a new record of $119 billion.

But this surge in e-commerce is leaving the biggest retail categories largely untouched for now, though this is likely to change. They include auto dealers, gasoline stations, and grocery stores. These three categories alone, at $620 billion in Q4, accounted for 51% of retail sales. These are among the sectors that are still “online resistant.”

Among the remaining 49% ($575 billion in Q4), some categories of retailers are holding on, but others have been getting crushed, and the list of those getting crushed is growing.

So I took a look at the specific categories that are being mauled the most by e-commerce, based on the categories used in the Commerce Department’s retail sales reports. On one side is E-commerce; on the other side are these categories that have gotten hit the hardest so far:

  • Sporting goods, book, hobby, toy, game, and music stores
  • Electronics and appliance stores
  • Department stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Clothing, & clothing accessory stores

Together they accounted for or about 28% of the “under attack” segment. Their combined sales of $159 billion in Q4 2017 were just above where they’d been in Q4 2005 despite 11% population growth over the 12-year period and 30% in price increases as measured by the Consumer Price Index:

This category of “Brick & Mortar Meltdown Stores” contrasts with overall retail, which includes e-commerce but not sales at restaurants and bars. This measure of retail sales grew 5.7% year-over-year in Q4 2017, the hottest growth since 2012. Since 2005, retail sales have grown 36%, not quite matching the combined effect of price increases and population growth – so not much to write home about on a “real” per-capita basis. But at least superficially, the trend is up:

The chart below compares e-commerce sales to sales at clothing & clothing accessory stores, whose sales in Q4 were up only 10% in total over the past five years, despite 8% inflation as measured by CPI over the same period and 4% population growth. So the upward slope no longer looks so good, especially when compared to the slope of e-commerce sales:

Department stores were among the earliest stores to get clobbered by e-commerce. Sales peaked in 2001 and have since plunged 34%, despite inflation and population growth:

Other Brick-and-Mortar Losers included the two categories in the chart below:

  • Sporting goods, hobby, book, music, toy, and game stores: sales are down 1% over the past 10 years, despite inflation and population growth.
  • Electronics & appliance stores: sales are down 22% over the past 10 years

These are the sectors that have been losing the battle against e-commerce, starting 20 years ago. E-commerce will spread deeper into other categories as consumers become ever more comfortable buying things online that they didn’t used to buy online. This conversion is happening constantly, as consumer preferences and technologies change. Many of the stores in those categories, like music stores before them, will essentially disappear over the next few years. And these stores are the primary occupants at malls.

For many mall landlords – despite what they may claim publicly – this means that they will have to find some other purpose for that piece of land. But that process doesn’t happen overnight. It took 20 years to get this far, and it will take many more years of upheaval before some sort of equilibrium will be established among the survivors.

Surging home prices have primed the housing market for this. Read…  What will Spiking Mortgage Rates, High Home Prices, & the New Tax Law Do to the Housing Market?

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  80 comments for “Brick & Mortar Meltdown Hits These Stores the Most

  1. Petunia says:

    In our town Books a Million closed after Xmas, Winn Dixie is set to go into bankruptcy, and Applebees and Ihop are on the chopping block too. My husband went to check out the President’s Day sale at Best Buy and said the place was empty. The sale wasn’t that good either.

    Every store I go to seems to have less on the shelves, including the thrift store. Inventories are so tight you can see the empty spaces in the stores.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      Puzzling. Surely Applebees and Ihop aren’t much affected by e-commerce.
      Just less money for fast casual?

      • Mike G says:

        The crapification of food at corporate chain restaurants. I avoid them as much as possible — the lowest-common-denominator food and ‘service’ patter scripted by some MBA at head office that insults the waitstaff and customer alike.

        • p coyle says:

          i couldn’t agree more. nice assessment.

        • EB says:

          ‘Service patter’ scripted by some MBA at head office….

          Haha well-put! One imagines an entire section of the Applebees manual with sample convos between waitstaff and customers. Inevitably with some upselling incorporated of course

        • Dave D'Rave says:

          Agree. Applebees has gone seriously downhill in the last 6-12 months. It used to be pretty good, and now the service is crummy, and the food is mediocre.

          There is only so far you can go with $1 Long Island Iced Tea. . .

    • Steven Lux says:

      If you don’t mind, what town are you in or near?

      • Juanfo says:

        I would guess it’s some speculative far flung suburb with empty and/or abandoned sprawling subdivisions. Infrastructure built for the tide of settlers that never came. Small boom towns on the outer ring of cities going back to what they were before the 90’s, quiet little towns. The developers came, carved up prime farmland. With them came the construction, the holiday inns, the ihops, the walmarts. Only the buyers failed to show up. 3 hour commutes each way to the job markets is unsustainable at best. Thousands of shells of abandoned incomplete mcmansions in the middle of the barren desert now inhabited by the off the grid fringe squatters, no electricity, no water, no garbage disposal much less law enforcement. Hundreds of miles from civilization.

        • Petunia says:

          As a native New Yorker, I think the rest of the country is the middle of nowhere. I live in the south, they think it’s a city.

    • Lt says:

      These chain restaurants are frequently in A locations may be near malls. They also rely on anchor stores to bring in traffic.

    • Night-Train says:

      There was a Books-A-Million store in a mall just a hop, skip and a jump from my home. It closed 3 or 4 years ago. Ironically, it was in a building that was originally a Winn Dixie store. I have missed my Sunday afternoon browse through the books, and I bought a bunch. In a further irony, the Books-A -Million chain began in north Alabama and I live in central Alabama.

      I heard recently that the family of the B-A-M company had regained control of the company. So my fingers are crossed. I will buy books online, but it doesn’t come close to the experience of browsing through the stacks or picking out a few good magazines to take home and thumbing through with my late afternoon cup of coffee and Baileys.

      A simple life can be very rewarding.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

        There’s a Bay Area chain called Half-Price Books that my boss loves to go to; I’ve been with him and they’re really good. Tech books, books on the arts, etc you name it. So used books are not dead.

        Also antique stores, the kind with all the little booths, often have quite a lot of books.

  2. TheDona says:

    Exciting changes ahead for some of the dying malls. Making them into mini neighborhoods with mixed use:

    • Robert says:

      Seems like a promising concept. The actual presentation was not as promising as the conceptual introduction.

      For example — a simple minded question occurs — if working with a 1,000,000 S.F. mall { 1000 by 1000 } what percentage might be used for each re-purposing?

      Say 300,000 S.F. for multi-family, 100,000 for parking, 100,000 for interior roads, 250,000 for open space, some for local small retail, etc.

      The 40,000 foot view given by the presentation (an old business metaphor used by Sr. Managers I worked for) does not really show much departure from the currently failing mega-malls configuration.

      Over-retailed America will need SIGNIFICANT RECONFIGURATION away from the status quo. And to do so successfully will take a dramatic new vision for billions of Square Feet of unused and under-used retail space.

      If I were to footnote this opinion comment, I would show two notes :

      (1) The retail S.F. per capita in the 1950-s vs. now
      (2) The retail S.F. per capita vs. the rest of the world

      Perhaps it would be better to demolish the vacant malls in favor of mixed-use, denser, and walk-able neighborhoods.

      Yes, I am a fan of J. H. Kunstler.

      • Steven Lux says:

        Thank you for your reference to J H Kunstler. I just downloaded his TED talk. I’ve done my part by making my current “home” a Nissan NV 2500 HD.

      • Nick Kelly says:

        I gather from your idea for this block that you are re-purposing the land not the structure, which would have to be demolished.

        This will seem drastic to many folk, who want to re-purpose the structure. This can mean a lot of things: cutting up a large vacant space like a Sears into smaller units is one.
        Another is conversion to education institution.

        But a lot of people think the structure can be converted to housing. Other than dorm or communal housing, demolition is most likely the only option.
        In the majority of cases it is also not economically practical to add floors over a mall.

    • Nala says:

      Thanks for sharing link TheDona! I have a few clients stuck in non-performing mall investments and will pass along!

    • Steven Lux says:

      I’ve thought that redevelopment into residential space is a great idea. Especially with the “tiny house” movement gaining popularity.

    • TXRancher says:

      Redbird mall was originally developed in the upward mobile middle class Redbird area of southwest Dallas. As the neighborhood changed due to Federal Judge Barefoot Sander attempt at school integration the mall was renamed Southwest Center. After total decline it is changing the name back to Redbird Mall. However, there is no basis of support for this development in this area. Any area south of downtown Dallas is generally ignored by Dallas leaders.

      Collin Creek Mall was another project in your link. It was developed in the affluent Plano TX area. It’s downfall are the much more elaborate malls located in North Dallas and just north of Plano TX in Frisco TX. The Collin Creek area is still located in middle class Plano so it might have a chance at redevelopment.

    • Frederick says:

      Sounds lovely I always dreamt of retiring to a recycled Sears store

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

        What I love are the people who buy their old elementary school and live in that!

  3. GSH says:

    Empty malls – Perfect. Most cities are desperately looking for low-income housing and shelters.

    • Lenz says:

      haha say this concept gets applied…
      How will that effect the rest of the real estate market?

      wouldn’t it be a deflationary force greater then rate hikes?

  4. Bookdoc says:

    A couple of comments. Our market is loaded with casual restaurants doing well but if you don’t take care of the customer, you are gone. Applebees and IHOP gave up on good service long ago. As to online buying, I am 6’6″ and wear 15 wide shoes. At retailers it was “here’s what we have” and choices and prices were dramatically better on the net. Women aren’t as lucky as female sizing is different from every manufacturer so they never know what they are getting. A 46/34 pant will be the same wherever you get it.

    • TCG says:

      I agree, brick and mortar retail is uncompetitive in selection compared to the selection you can find online. I have similar problems with shoes since I need narrow sizing which no one carries. Back in the 80s or early 90s there were a couple large retailers in most large urban areas who often carried unusual sizes or a much larger selection. People would drive out of their way to shop at these places. Now it’s easier to shop online and most of those places have closed or have become useless regarding wide selection because they’ve been cutting their inventory to make themselves more profitable and have reduced their main selling points (wide selection) in the process.

      I get a laugh out of businesses that offer to order things for you in this age. Why would I have you create an order that will take weeks or months to come in, cost full MSRP and force me to make another trip to your store? I can order online, get it within a week or maybe even a couple days, pay less than an inflated MSRP and not have to go out of the way to your store that has already failed me once.

      I first noticed the “cut your way to success” method in the mid to late 90s with music and dvd sellers. What was a store with huge selection quickly morphed into many empty shelves and the shelves with product had hundreds of copies of the few most popular newly-released items. If I only wanted to buy those super popular items I would’ve been shopping at Wal-Mart or Target for music, not there. Predictably, everyone stopped shopping there because there was no advantage and higher prices and this was before eCommerce was huge and music was easily downloaded from online music stores.

      A lot of the clothing, department and other stores are now going down the same road the music stores went down 2 decades ago. They’re trying to cut selection, cut quality and find success by doing it. Customers notice these cuts and it only makes them disappointed and reinforces why they feel better off shopping online or elsewhere. Maybe these stores have no choice financially, but it only reinforces and accelerates the customers leaving as the stores go into a downward spiral of crap products and crap selection.

    • Emanon says:

      The last time I bought running shoes, I walked in with a pair of size 9.5 wide shoes on my feet and when I walked out I had a new pair of 8.5 wide shoes in my hands. Nike appears to have a different measurement system than the rest of the industry.

      Even shoemakers don’t have absolutely identical sizes for men, which is why I always need to try them on to see if the damn things fit – if not, then I can’t run in them.

      This may be a deliberate ploy to force men to go shopping, even though we’d much rather just order the damn things online.

  5. MCH says:

    you know its funny, one of the things they do with mall space (at least in some cases) is to stick a movie theater chain in it. But in some cases, it hasn’t worked out well. At Vallco mall in Cupertino, the AMC is literally the only thing left in the mall when I checked about half year ago. Now, the entire land is going to be turned into condos, at least that was the plan originally.

    It’s going to make that part of Cupertino/Sunnyvale miserable, and that on top of the Spaceship right down the road.

  6. polecat says:

    You know, I think George Romero was on to something, filming his second opus, Dawn of the Dead, in a deserted shopping mall …
    Quite prophetic how, 30+ years ago, he portrayed MBAs, Economists, Banksters, and Leveraged-buyout Scamsters as zombies .

    • Volvo P-1800 says:

      Good comment! I always thought Stephen King’s “The Stand” was what my future would look like.

    • Arizona Slim says:

      That mall wasn’t deserted. When Romero made the movie, the Monroeville Mall was doing well.

      • polecat says:

        Sure it was ! I didn’t see any open storefronts, nor paying customers strolling the aisles … just the crazed FIRE undead, looking to give any unsuspecting plebe a vigorous, and quite fatal, arm or neck bite, along with the ol’ one-two intestine pull … forever then to be consigned to eternal financial hell … looking to infect other chumps with the virus of penury !

  7. Lt says:

    Here at I’m seeing schools and govt services taking over old big box stores. For example, a circuit city became a technical school and a Kmart became the county health svcs office. There were at one time rumors of one large mall from the 70s becoming a film studio but that didn’t pan out…. that would have been neat.

  8. economicminor says:

    Around Southern Oregon there is still a lot of new retail space being built. Even though the mall has many open spaces. I do go to a few box stores. Costco, Winco, Freddies, Home Depot. Even some times Walmart & Trader Joes

    I have been in the Medford Toys R Us store and it has never had many customers.. I just must have never been there during rush hour.

    There are two Applebee’s in the area and they still seem to be functioning bars as much as restaurants. We went when they first opened but we love our smaller ethnic places and just have little interest in the Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, Outbacks, Texas Roadhouses etc.. or all the big Pizza chains the same. I really won’t miss them when they go. Subway got boring.. They need some real bread. They have all these varieties yet the difference in texture or taste is minimal. Why bother?

    It probably isn’t so much that they are chains. The food comes basically from the same distributors as everyone else’ food comes from.. None of the big chains use local meat or local produce. Not local bakeries either. All food, other than local grown, is all grown by someone who grows tens of thousands and they are all hybred GMO feed lot production food. Even *Organic* is mass produced. (which makes me wonder what kind of organic fertilizer they use for such large productions. Is it from the feed lots with all those antibiotics and hormones in it? And who knows what else? It is just that the locals make it more like I would make it and the money stays home rather than to some big shot CEO… The factory restaurants are just that.

    I buy on line lots of things.. from tractor rims and steering gears to toilet wipes and electronics.. Cameras and flashlights.. I can not see how the BM stores can compete with endless options and the varied prices found on line.. And it is delivered to my doorstep. Some things don’t work out.. I bought a couple of catalytic converters. They came from NY… The mechanic put the car on the rack, took all the things off, like an axle and exhaust only to find out that they weren’t quite right.. So I had to pay the exorbitant price the dealer wanted anyway and then ship them back.. Not everything works out.

    Things are constantly changing..

    It would seem that higher interest rates aren’t the only problem that debt laden Brick and Mortar companies and factory restaurants have going forward. Many of them are just going to dry up and blow away.

    So many resources used to create these special use buildings for such a short run.. What a waste!

    • Matt P says:

      That small ethnic restaurant is most likely and sadly supplied by Cysco as well.

      • Hirsute says:

        Yes, Sysco. It’s all off of a distribution truck unless the restaurant owner or manager goes to Sams Club or Costco for some purchases….

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

          I saw a Sysco truck today that had some smarmy saying about “here’s your next meal” or something like that, on it.

    • LessonIsNeverTry says:

      “So many resources used to create these special use buildings for such a short run.. What a waste!” – Similar to how multi use sporting venues have been bulldozed after 30 or 40 years to make way for the latest stadium fads.

  9. raxadian says:

    Big cities in the US have way more restaurants and bars that they need, and what affects them is the saturation and the economy, not online sales.

    There isn’t that much difference from ordering food using a phone, an app or the Internet.

    People could have killed bars as soon as liquor stores started to deliver, yet they still exist.

    Same for restaurants dying as soon as the option of food delivery existed.

    Restaurants and bars have always been about going to said restaurants and bars. They do well when people has extra money and close down when people doesn’t.

    Simply put people find something in there that they don’t get by buying food or liquor online.

    If you see restaurants and bars closing down is because of people going out less to save cash.

    Anyway, I will keep saying this, malls signed their death warrant once the age of cheap fuel was over, Internet sales just is helping them to the grave.

    Because now people don’t even need to go to the store in town that has stuff they want and is cheaper than the mall. Or even know that said store exists.

    Just look for stuff they want online, compare prices and then order to have the stuff delivered at home.

    • MC01 says:

      Restaurants are one of the categories which have felt the most the benefits of lower debt servicing costs.
      Until 2012 a new restaurant had a massive 60% chance to cease operations during its first two years of operation. Now it has gone down to 50%.
      It may not sound like much, but it means that, statistically speaking, 16.67% more restaurants will stay in operation more than two years than in 2012 or before. That’s truly a lot.

      This is not due to some recent boom in people eating outside: people were eating outside in 2012 as well and my mother’s uncle made an authentic fortune between the late 50’s and the early 60’s by running a seedy grill in the right place.
      The higher survival rate is chiefly due to much lower debt servicing costs than before, which is only partly offset by stiffer competition chewing into raw revenues. And higher costs are usually passed on to customers faster than in many other lines of business.

      It will be interesting to see how the double pincer of higher interest rates and heating inflation will affect restaurants in the US: while the former will undoubtedly have consequences, the latter has been brewing up for a while, especially in the food and drink sector.

  10. Old Engineer says:

    I’ve no doubt that e-commerce is stressing brick and mortar. But what killed Toys-R-Us is a cultural shift away from physical toys to virtual toys. Kids are now playing with computer games and apps. I have finally quit looking for physical toys for 10 year old grandson, there is very little available, even online. I would guess Minecraft will probably do in LEGO eventually.
    Today we have virtual relationships, virtual news, virtual communications, and even virtual money. No surprise toys are virtual too.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

      Old Engineer – In my area, what I also see is a trend for parents to want to buy “retro” type toys for their young kids, made of wood, rocking horses and classic style blocks with letters on them, etc. It’s kind of an upscale nostalgia type of thing. This is upscale parents not average parents, but it’s another sector not going to Toys-R-Us.

      • LessonIsNeverTry says:

        It isn’t just nostalgia… many of these parents are concerned about toxins in the ubiquitous plastic used in most kid’s toys.

    • Jos Oskam says:

      If he’s anything like my grandson, just buy him a smallish toolbox with an assortment of different size nails, hammer and pincers.
      Best-loved present ever, and way more useful than the virtual stuff.

  11. Greek says:

    In my urban area I see many new mini-strip malls put up in the last three years -you know, starbucks, cvs, nail salon right next to half empty or totally empty older complexes.

    I’m not sure what the dynamic there is. It appears that the USA has an unlimited hunger for dominoes pizza, coffee and drug stores. Although I hear Subway is closing a few stores.

    • MC01 says:

      Those businesses tend to be franchises, and franchises have been on a killer spree for quite a few years now, regardless if there’s a big enough market for their goods or not and if they have a viable business or not. The reason is the parent company stands to lose relatively little while the bulk of the financial risks are shouldered by the franchisees and especially their financial backers, usually smaller local banks.

      Some of these franchises are closely tied to local real estate bubbles, chiefly because the driver behind these tend to be local banks lending money with complete abandon… who needs three new Burger Kings in a three miles radius when population in the catchment basin is aging and slowly shrinking? Probably the same people who need “sardine package homes” with no garden at half a million a pop in the same area.

      The question is, of course, what business owner in his or her right mind would get suckered into such questionable schemes.
      The answer rests again in those banks lending with complete abandon, not unlike their kin in Thailand back in the 90’s. Getting into debt is ridiculously cheap in most of the developed world while getting a scrap of fixed yield is ridiculously hard.
      On top of that you need local governments either easily swayed by grandiose (and doomed to fail) expansion plans or hungry for revenue… or a combination of both. Mayors who ran on a “our town already has too many empty houses and stores: not a single new one!” platform will be cajoled into selling their own citizens down the river to real estate speculators, and without too much effort.

      If you think the Beltway and Wall Street are a cesspool, you have been blessed by not having to deal with local politics and economics.

  12. bkennedy says:

    Mail-order and catalogue was the main way of purchasing many consumer goods in the not that too distant byegone eras. So we are reverting. I am not keen on purchasing shoes on line unless I have tried. A particular model in a store and know it will fit well. Expect an uptick in orthopedic surgery as consumers feel the consequences of illfiting shoes

  13. I have noticed less merch and great open spaces between rounders and racks at Nordstrom full-line department stores in San Francisco and Seattle lately. And what they had was not compelling; I left empty-handed.

  14. John says:

    Nowadays it is easier to find decent genuine leather shoes online.

    About 20 years ago K-Mart started selling shoes from man-made materials (plastic crap in plain English).Soon Walmart, Target and Payless followed suit.

    Out of sheer desperation I went to Macy’s.As a blue-collar working guy I am not even supposed to shop at Macy’s.The same story-80% Macy’s shoes are man-made materials.

    Instead of trying Bloomingdale or Neiman Marcus I started ordering shoes from Amazon.Steel toe work boots,plain toe oxfords,motorcycle boots-all real stuff and all fit perfectly.

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

      “Amazon” isn’t a shoe brand, and you can order perfectly crappy versions of anything on there if you want, so … what brands are you buying? Because we’re all interested in good shoes.

      I swear by honest-to-God made in England Doc Martens. I’ve got two pairs of low-quarters and a pair of boots, paid $50, $50, $20 – that last because they were from a friend who never wore them – new in the box!

      • John says:

        ===I swear by honest-to-God made in England Doc Martens.===

        Patent leather English shoes is not my level.If my ffriends catch me wearing them I’ll be charged under the article 134 of Uniform Code of Military Justice (i.e. Conduct Unbecoming) ;-)

        My favorite shoe companies are Clarks and Rockport.They are in business more than 100 years,I guess they know what they are doing.You pay extra for the brand name but not too much extra.

        Benefits of genuine leather shoes are that you may treat them with an inexpensive skin cream – they will never crack (recipe from my grandmother).Skin cream does not penetrate man-made materials.

        Also I was taught to spit-shine my shoes.You can’t spit-shine man-made crap.

        Newest scam they (low level dept stores)
        came up with-shoes from SHREDDED (!!!) leather.It looks,feels and smells like real stuff but disintegrates in about 6 months.

        • Matt P says:

          Clarks went cheap if you check the reviews online. The soles disintegrate shortly after buying

        • John says:

          @Matt P

          If Clark and Rockport go cheap I’ll move to Haight-Ashbury,put flowers in my hair and start wearing sandals or better yet will walk barefoot.

        • TheDona says:

          John – Rockport, after being passed around to several other Shoe conglomerates, is now owned by Crescent Capital. Read up on their nefarious pedigree.

          BTW, the original family who started Rockports has their own shoe line now called Samuel Hubbard. You might check those out.

          Clarks is still majority owned by Clark family.

          Google “crumbling soles” and almost all brands have issues with Polyurethane soles.

        • John says:


          Well,as the Bible says-from a lot of knowledge comes a lot of grief.Just in case-what brand of decent genuine leather shoes are appropriate for a L7 blue collar working guy who mastered applied spit-shining science to perfection ? And that will not fall apart or crack unexpectedly

          L,7 used to mean “square”. I am one of the remaining few.

        • TheDona says:

          John – I hear ya! That is why I am on a mission to replace all of my past declining quality brands with new brands. Ask your friends and co-workers the pros and cons of what they prefer.

          Check out this well made, good looking classic line of shoes:

          These from the original makers of Rockport. They are pricer, but maybe worth a try? Free shipping and returns. ;-)

        • John says:


          LC or lickin’ ckickin or I hear you load and clear.

          I don’t switch my loyalties easily but if things keep going the way they are going now I am gonna flip.

      • Harambe says:

        They’re made in China, Alex. Unless you buy the much more expensive “Vintage” line which is still made in the UK.

    • Derek says:

      I’m fortunate that I can go barefoot most of the year. I have a pair of handmade sandals (Dave Piper in San Antonio) I wear when necessary. Try it if you can.

      • John says:

        People might assume that you are homeless person.That is what I did recently.I offered $1 to the badly dressed woman in sandals.She became hysterical and told me she just wanted to ask for directions.It was embarrassing for both of us.

        • Derek says:

          I live in Seattle and this doesn’t happen. I could be an eccentric quiet millionaire, of which there are many. Never had a problem here, in Calif., Texas, or Hawaii. Guess I must dress well enough.

  15. matt says:

    Tops Supermarkets just filed Chapter 11 on Wed in the northeast. Many other smaller chains have also done so over the past year. Winn Dixie is also doing the same. Lost track of the thousands of Supermarkets stores that have closed or gone bankrupt of the past several years Wolf. from the mom and pop that own a few to the larger chains such as Pathmark Super fresh . . MARS closed all 26 stores right here where I live in Maryland right here in July last year

  16. Robert says:

    This posted article, as well as several previous posts, examines Dollar Volume per store, and Dollar Volume Growth per store, which tells a strong story.

    Many of the comment responses to each post tell of “deserted malls” and other stand-alone retail stores.

    Would it not be valid and useful to write about Dollar Volume and Dollar Volume Growth per square foot of retail ? Maybe comparing the numbers over the last several decades ?

    I see new malls being opened in my area, and wonder what lending facility thinks financing new mall space is a prudent use of funds at risk ?

  17. Arnold Ziffel says:

    Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s ZIRP you can add the restaurant chains as another category of malinvestment, ie Chipotle.

    • Petunia says:

      I love Chipotle but it’s a longish drive to get to my local one. I recently discovered a local place that is just as good. If Chipotle is getting replicated successfully they are going to be in trouble too.

  18. Widowson says:

    Some years back I bought a pair of Red Wing boots for $200+– I was new to the newspaper delivery game and did not yet realize how many weeks of newspapers it would take to pay for them– and then a few years after that bought a second pair from the same store. In the interim Red Wings crapified their designs, going from soles that could be replaced to soles that were glued on and couldn’t be– and I recently took the original pair to a cobbler who replaced the soles for $57! The second pair which actually cost more cannot be repaired and are in a landfill somewhere.

    I would love to see a treatise someday on how moving Levi’s production overseas worked out for the brand; Levi’s jeans today could be pulled apart by two toddlers, not the mules on their labels of old.

    I was in a LL Bean Outlet last week and thought about buying my wife a shirt for Valentine’s Day: $50+ for most of the shirts on the rack and made in Cambodia. I’d maybe pay that if it was made in Freeport, Maine. But Cambodia? I don’t think so.

    • Petunia says:

      I used to buy cotton dresses from a still made in the US brand. Since they are not in my area I buy online. The cotton is no longer as thick as it was and many of the dresses are now made from polyester or blends for more money. I no longer trust buying from them online as much as I used to. Quality is declining everywhere, even in high end brands.

      • TheDona says:

        Petunia – I have started buying clothes from the UK. Much better quality, thick cottons, and still have slit pockets. It appears they have wised up and now have “fulfillment centers” in California so they can offer free shipping and free returns. Before, it came directly from UK and the shipping was expensive.

        I am trying as many new clothing and shoe brands as possible while this free shipping and free returns is being offered. ALL of my old “Go To” brands and stores have all become the same low quality junk. I am in search of new “Go To” brands and I don’t mind a few free returns to find them.

        • Petunia says:

          Thanks, will look for them. I always loved London fashion. I noticed the Queen finally recognizes the importance of the industry and attended a London fashion show.

        • Matt P says:

          What brands from the UK have you found to be good?

        • TheDona says:

          Matt P – My favorite is Boden. So far so good with the dresses making it through multiple hot Texas summers. Lots of shoes that are all leather….even the soles!

          One tip I have when looking at websites is to go ahead and sign up for newsletter when prompted. You generally get 15% or more off of you first order and free ship and return just to get you to try. If it is something you don’t think you are interested in then just unsubscribe later.

    • MC01 says:

      The problem with apparel brands (and other consumer products, read on) is not due to them moving their manufacturing facilities to South Asia.
      It is due to them having to savagely slash costs to fight inflation: manufacturers living and dying by selling us all sorts of products know perfectly well official CPI figures are underreported at best and made up at worst. They have to savagely cut corners, often merely to keep price growth in check.
      That’s why cotton or wool cloth gets “watered down” with cheap synthetics, the quality of stitching worsens slowly but surely and the color fades away faster than ever.

      You could write a whole book: as a chemist I often get asked why most perfumes these days don’t last the ride from home to work or seem to have “something wrong” with how they smell now. The answer is very simple: many perfume manufacturers have slashed the fixative content to almost nothing or replaced the old proven ones with literal junk like skatole. Good fixatives such as ambergris, musk and even vetiver essence have been spiralling up in cost for at least two decades now but manufacturers just know they cannot pass the cost on to their customers, at least not without losing sales. Only ultra-high end manufacturers which can afford charging a lot of money such as Creed are immune. But for how long?

    • stan barber says:

      the other day a zip on my Timberland fleece top cracked open. i had this for over 10 years and i wore it every cold day here in uk. i had a look at it just today, and the label said “made in usa”. i thought, well this is a rarity now, something that was actually made in the good old us of a. so i have to fix it and keep wearing it athough missus quickly jumped to help me buy me a patagonia cheapo replacement. just cant wait :(

  19. mvojy says:

    The Sears in my old town just closed down. My mom would order things in the catalog and we would go to the side entrance to pick it up. Sears truly was the first Amazon. It is sad to see the places we frequented growing up be liquidated and shuttered. It is being replace by a Stew Leonard’s market and a movie theater in the upper floors. I suppose the future of malls is to build apartments above them so you have a captive customer base. Then you fill the mall with places that are not threatened by online retailers. Put in coffee shop, nail salons, barbers, gyms, daycare, dry cleaners, fast/casual/takeout restaurants and experiences. My old town leads the nation in sales per zip code and the commercial base has subsidized the residential property taxes to offer great schools and services. There are storefronts along the highway that have sat vacant for far too long now. It remains to be seen if the commercial tax base will start shrinking and put the local tax burden onto residents through their rents and property taxes. I’m sure it would begin shifting in areas that are reliant on the property taxes from their one mall but when that closes the homeowners get slammed to make up for the loss of ratables.

  20. Bead says:

    Went out for a bite last night in the burb and all the chain restaurants were full parking lots. So it must be a mixed picture. Still plenty of room on their credit cards.

  21. Joseph Weidle says:

    I see a common theme with Tops and Toys are Us Private a Equity
    I have been buying from companies such as LLBean and Cabelas when it was called mail order rather than E commerce since they sold things I could not find in stores
    Private Equity is destroying the retail landscape there should be a clawback provision or I would ask who provides them with funding?

  22. seeker says:

    How much of the growth is B&M moving to ecom from B&M?

  23. Mike says:

    If you look online at Macys or JCPenny they have the same steep discounts as at the mall. That means demand is just as weak online. If online were truly surging, online prices would be rising or at least staying the same. There would be no need to shop online, if you could go to the store and get 20-80% off. Plus, you can walk out with your purchase, rather than waiting 2 weeks for it to arrive, in addition to paying for shipping. Both stores, as well as many others, are reporting weaker earnings. If online was replacing mall traffic, earnings wouldn’t suffer. The real issue is the American consumer, who is slowly dying from record debt and near record low savings. Toys r Us also has a website, but is failing not because of online sales, but because people are not shopping like they used to.

  24. nomoliberals says:

    Remember when Walmart was the big retail killer? Who knew it was really Amazon. I’ve grown sick of Bezos and his liberal cr@p. Death to Amazon as far as I’m concerned.

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