The Biggest Retailers Are Too Scared to Disclose this Data. But Nordstrom Just Did

How its own online sales, now one-third of its total sales, eat its brick & mortar. But it’s a matter of survival.

The largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the US don’t disclose what portion of their revenues derive from e-commerce and from their brick-and-mortar stores. They don’t because it would show just to what extent their brick-and-mortar stores are losing revenues even as their own e-commerce revenues are surging with big double-digit gains.

The top brick-and-mortar retailers have huge online operations: Walmart, Home Depot, BestBuy, and Macy’s in that order are the fourth through seventh largest e-commerce sites in the US, behind only Amazon, eBay, and Apple.

So they only disclose – or brag about – the massive percent increases in e-commerce revenues. But they do not disclose data that would allow us to calculate their e-commerce revenues in dollars, the dollar-increase in e-commerce revenues, the surging share of e-commerce in their total revenues, and the likely declining share of their brick-and-mortar revenues.

They even include e-commerce sales in “comparable sales” – sometimes falsely called same-store sales by the media. So when these “comparable sales” increase by 2%, it could be because e-commerce sales are booming even as brick-and-mortar sales are falling.

Nordstrom is the exception. It started disclosing details on its online sales last year (kudos!). And it’s an eye-opener for what is happening to brick-and-mortar sales – not only at its stores but in the industry.

One-third of Nordstrom revenues are already e-commerce.

In its earnings report yesterday for Q4 and its fiscal year 2018 (ended on February 2, 2019), Nordstrom threw us some red meat about its “digital sales,” as it calls them, allowing us to calculate its brick-and-mortar sales (the numbers below exclude “credit card revenues,” such as interest paid by its card holders; roughly stable at around $100 million a quarter):

Q4 of fiscal 2018: digital sales = 33% of total sales of $4.38 billion = $1.45 billion; brick-and-mortar sales = $2.937 billion

Q4 of fiscal 2017: digital sales = 30% of total sales of $4.60 billion = $1.38 billion; brick-and-mortar sales = $3.22 billion

This shows three things for Q4, year-over-year:

  • Total Sales: -4.5%
  • Digital sales: +5.1%
  • Brick-and-mortar sales: -8.7%

Fiscal year 2018: digital sales = 30% of total sales of $15.48 billion = $4.64 billion; brick-and-mortar sales = $10.84 billion.

Fiscal year 2017: digital sales = 27% of total sales of $15.137 billion = $4.09 billion; brick-and-mortar sales $11.05 billion.

This shows three things for the full fiscal year 2018:

  • Total Sales: +2.3%
  • Digital sales: +13.6%
  • Brick-and-mortar sales: -1.9%

The survival strategy.

In its audited annual report (10-K filing) for its fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, Nordstrom spelled out the critical importance of investing in its online business and fulfillment infrastructure. In the section of “Risks due to Strategic and Operational Factors,” it says:

Digital channels continue to facilitate comparison shopping, intensifying competition in the retail market. If we fail to adequately anticipate and respond to customer and market dynamics, we may lose market share or our ability to remain competitive, causing our sales and profitability to suffer. If we do not properly allocate our capital between the store and digital environment or between the full-price and off-price channels, or adjust the effectiveness and efficiency of our stores and digital channels, our overall sales and profitability could suffer.

Nordstrom gets it. BestBuy gets it. Macy’s gets it. Walmart gets it. But private equity firms – those that years ago acquired Toys “R” Us, Payless ShoeSource, and other now bankrupt retailers, including Sun Capital which has pushed six retailers it owned into bankruptcy – didn’t get it.

But the top retailers, outside of Nordstrom, are not disclosing to what extent their e-commerce sales are taking share from their brick-and-mortar sales. This is a scary thing for retailers because a large amount of money is involved in operating physical stores.

Nordstrom brags about its “combined physical and digital presence” and how that “represents a competitive advantage in offering customers a differentiated experience.”

It’s not really a “competitive advantage” since they’re all doing it — Macy’s, BestBuy, Walmart, the whole bunch is counting on it to give some purpose to their brick-and-mortar stores.

And here is an example from BestBuy as to why this “combined physical and digital presence” is only of limited benefit to physical stores, and less so going forward. This is just an example, but it plays out time after time:

I ordered a laptop from Best Buy. Among the delivery options was free shipping on orders of “$35 and up” or pick-up at the store, also free. But the store didn’t have the laptop in inventory. It would have to be shipped to the store. And the day after it gets to the store, I could pick it up at the store.

So I ordered free shipping to the door and got it a day earlier than I could have by picking it up at the store. Why hassle with going to the store a day later – time and expense – when they bring it to the door a day earlier at the same cost? I don’t know either.

No chance this shift to online will abate or reverse.

Even elderly internet-averse people have discovered online shopping. It’s a godsend because it allows them to buy stuff without having to deal with the physical issues of going shopping, and of going from store to store until they find the thing they’re looking for, if they can even find it at all. They can shop at their favorite retailers and buy their favorite brands backed by nearly unlimited inventories without having to leave the house.

And retailers that are planning to stick around are spending vast amounts of money building out their online operations and their e-commerce fulfillment infrastructure, including warehouses and delivery operations.

As Nordstrom pointed out, this is costly. And online margins can be thin due to easy comparative shopping. But one-third of Nordstrom’s revenues are already from its e-commerce sites, and growing, and are taking share away from its brick-and-mortar sales. But if these large retailers fail to make the transition, and fail to invest vast amounts of money in it, they’ll go the way of Toys ‘R’ Us, Payless, or Sears.

Mall landlords are painfully aware of it. “I prefer not to scare you at this point, okay. But it’s something that we’ve been able to withstand,” explained David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group, the largest mall REIT in the US. Read... What the CEO of America’s Largest Mall REIT, Simon Property Group, Just Said about the Brick & Mortar Meltdown and How it’s Trying to Manage It

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  75 comments for “The Biggest Retailers Are Too Scared to Disclose this Data. But Nordstrom Just Did

  1. 2banana
    Mar 1, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Two thoughts come to mind.

    1. I can think of many an analyst saying (5-10 years ago) that Best Buy had turned into the free “Amazon Showroom” and would soon be out of business with people just “looking” there and then ordering from Amazon.

    But Best Buy has been doing very well for the last decade+ and is still going strong. As any casino management will tell you – get them your place and they will spend. The longer they are there – the more they will spend.

    2. Well run, safe and fun malls/shopping centers are still doing very well. Online sales have destroyed the poorly run, unsafe and not so fun places to shop. I think the lesson is that the free market is working.

    Online sales still has many problems. Not being able to touch/try on the product, time for delivery, getting shipped a “counterfeit” item, hassle in the return something, item getting stolen in shipment/porch, etc.

    And there are some areas that are so dangerous/crime infested – that shipping is impossible.

    There will be a balance.

    • Javert Chip
      Mar 1, 2019 at 9:18 pm

      2banana

      Good analysis.

      Currently there’s a huge legacy of rapidly shrinking free “Amazon Showrooms”. I presume consumers require at least some Brick & Mortar presence to facilitate on-line sales as well as some people prefer physical stores.

      Being an old goat (I’m 72), I’ve seen several reinventions of retail (full service department stores, shopping malls, catalogue stores, big-box stores, on-line stores…). My experience has been each new generation is better than the last.

      However, there are sentimental favorites, like Sears, that are truly painful to watch die. This despite the fact that walking into a Sears store in the last 15+ years has been a miserable shopping experience. Letting go of the 40+ year-old memories is harder.

      • RD Blakeslee
        Mar 2, 2019 at 9:45 am

        Amen!

        Sears became walking dead the day they decided to can their mail-order catalog.

        • Paulo
          Mar 2, 2019 at 11:46 am

          Do you remember going to the Sears catalogue just to get information and to set the benchmark for sussing out a product? Then, we usually just ordered from Sears, anyway.

          We just used a Best Buy instead of Amazon or other online merchants to buy a stereo. It was delivered to our house in two business days as the store had to order it in from their central warehouse. We could not find what we wanted online as almost everything has morphed into Bluetooth and we don’t use (refuse to use) smartphones.

          Amazon, while amazing, is still limited and not always the best deal or product source. Shoppers have to shop around.

    • Mar 2, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      I see this as the old debate about CCs and checking accounts. People didn’t trust CCs, as it turns out checking accountants are far more problematic on a host of issues. Bob Prechter refers to monetization as a “check kiting scheme”, when we all know its really just like carrying a balance on your credit card. How often do you waste time (driving – good place to get killed) and money shopping and come home with nothing? Shopping is neither safe nor fun.

  2. timbers
    Mar 1, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    My combined digital and brick and mortar sales last year were about $900 which I know because Massachusetts now requires eBay to report this as “income” to the Treasury. I guess they decided Mitt Romney was paying too high a tax rate at 14% even though if memory serves he was caught violating tax laws last time he filed here. He must have been too busy doing all that job creating and made a tax mistake so now they’re going after the REAL tax cheats like me.

    • Prairies
      Mar 1, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      Obviously your sales alone would have completed a fancy wall down south /sarc

    • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
      Mar 1, 2019 at 11:44 pm

      Ebay’s been reporting sales to the feds for over a decade now, the thing is, if you want to pay as little as, or less than, Mittens does, it’s all in the write-offs.

      • timbers
        Mar 2, 2019 at 8:50 am

        Yes, and Massachusetts apparently has a lower threshold requiring eBay to generate a 1080-abc (or whatever) than the Fed and other states.

        And in the end, I don’t have to report it as income per the Massachusetts DOR website.

        A lot of required handing over of private data (SS#) to rich gigantic corporations for nothing, in the end. And extra paperwork for the Little People to make sure they pay every lat penny.

        Oddly, giving eBay my SS# for “tax” reasons roughly coincides with my Paypal credit cared (heavily linked to eBay) being used by somebody fraudulently not once but twice in the last several months. PayPal (Synchrony Bank) and taken a notable loss with that, as fraud charges have to be removed from your card as required by law.

  3. Howard Fritz
    Mar 1, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Thankfully Wolf will never die and keep writing forever, however for the rest of us, home shipping and Uber eats, make life much easier.

    However, I’m curious what the limit is? For example, what online retailers seek to sell is high-value density items eg an iPhone costs as much as a washing machine but is much more inexpensive to ship.

    Stores like Walmart sell high volume, low margin items because of the transportation infrastructure they’ve set up, and I don’t see home shipping for these types of purchases any time soon.

    A while back another commenter stated that these stores serve as a return desk for online purchase, sometimes for hundreds of dollars, which is undoubtedly quite expensive for the company.

    Therefore, I wonder what the saturation point for this type of expansion is, and what will ultimately be the correct retailer mix. Surely young people must have some type of first employment?

    • Mar 1, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Howard Fritz,

      Compared to our younger neighbors, we’re fossils. But we’ve been buying ALL our appliances online for years, including a washer and a dishwater. The delivery people install them, no problem. Might be an extra $50 to save me the trouble. Same as when you buy them at brick-and-mortar retailers. But the prices are cheaper online.

      Plus we started buying ALL our furniture online. Unlimited choice, no hassles, easy price comparisons. We got our living room set (couch, loveseat, and chair) that way, plus a huge armoire (minor assembly required … better know how to use a power screwdriver).

      Really, the only major thing we do NOT buy online is food — oh, and the occasional stuff at our hardware store, but they’re selling a service: advice. But we’re kind of old fashioned. Our millennial neighbors are now buying part of their food online too.

      Merchandise returns have always dogged US retailers, decades before Al Gore invented the internet. This is nothing new. But online returns are processed much more efficiently at centralized locations.

      “I wonder what the saturation point for this type of expansion is,…”

      There is no saturation point. This will keep on going bit by bit. It has been going on for 25 years and will continue to progress. It’s not an overnight thing. The successful retailers all totally get it. Hence their massive investments in e-commerce, including warehouses, delivery operations, merchandise return centers, and the like. They might not like it, but they have to, or else they’ll be the next Sears.

      • Howard Fritz
        Mar 1, 2019 at 8:40 pm

        Wolf, I don’t know what it is exactly but I just feel more comfortable purchasing these things in a store rather than online. Call me old fashioned.

        Besides the last appliance I purchased was a vacuum cleaner a decade ago and I found two more by the side of the road of the exact same model last year so I think I’m set until the end so to speak.

        I still repair my possessions, so they last a long time. :-]

      • Mean Chicken
        Mar 1, 2019 at 8:47 pm

        I didn’t know Al Gore invented the internet too, I always thought he only started global warming.

        • Jos Oskam
          Mar 2, 2019 at 3:10 am

          Every success story starts with the unknown people that do the hard and serious work in obscurity, followed by charlatans who creep out of the woodwork to steal the limelight over the back of those people’s efforts. In my opinion Al Gore is a despicable example of the latter category.

          By the way, the book “When Wizards Stay Up Late” offers a gripping narrative of the creation of the Internet and the people that are really deserving to be complimented for this.

        • yngso
          Mar 2, 2019 at 5:21 am

          There’s too much we’ll never know, and it is Silly Saturday…

        • Ricardo
          Mar 2, 2019 at 6:44 pm

          Al Gore never invented anything. Puppets can’t invent they can only be manipulated.

      • Jack
        Mar 1, 2019 at 9:19 pm

        “I wonder what the saturation point for this type of expansion is,…”

        Wolfieeee!!!

        As a great Economic Observer and thinker you know there is only so much deduction you can make to that burger pattie to warrant calling it a ( burger)!

        The thinning profit margins of the online retail can only be stretched so far and they will eventually have to reflect the costs associated with their business model, you know all the ones you mentioned in your reply above.

        For the sake of market share the likes of Amazon and Unter ohh sorry I meant Uber have destroyed lots and lots of legitimate ,Tax paying, Employing millions of people around the world with .. eh reasonable incomes ..
        In Substitution you get,

        A 90” TV delivered from China to your door step for a fraction of the actual price that the product might cost otherwise. Not sustainable in the long run ( Even without Trump jacking that price up a notch with his beloved tariffs)!

        So yes there will be a day of reckoning for the Amazons and ubers of this world, by my reckoning sooner than you might think.

        In the meantime Enjoy that ( free ride %60 subsidized and enjoy that pretty much low quality burger that’s been delivered by a man or a woman who can’t afford those luxuries!

        Wolf, you can only buy a Man’s services by a certain amount in any commercial exchange any lower than that then you’re dealing with an ( actual SLAVE).

        Sorry didn’t mean to be too harsh:]

        • Mar 1, 2019 at 10:44 pm

          Jack,

          The two most important considerations for buying on line for me are convenience and choice. It takes me 10 minutes to buy exactly what I want, instead of having to plod from store to store, spent money and time doing it, and not find what I’m looking for. Lower price helps. But that’s not the reason. It was never the reason. It was always about convenience and choice. So if you’re hoping that somehow bigger margins at online retailers will kill e-commerce, you still belong to those who just prefer to not understand this historic change in the industry :-]

        • yngso
          Mar 2, 2019 at 5:53 am

          Unter indeed! They steal almost all your profits and sell you a computer program that’s only marginally better than what taxis use. This is possible only because people are desperate for some kind of income. This isn’t sustainable in the long run.

          I don’t want to get between you and Wolf and get mauled, but just make an observation about retail in general: It’s a low margin business. Amazon has become amazing via the type of rice paper thin margins Chinese merchants are famous for. So it’s about extremely high volume while trying to satisfy individual needs and wants. If that’s not squaring a circle every minute of every day, then please tell us what is!
          The last transformation of the retail biz isn’t happening now. Getting everyone exactly what they need will always be a challenge.

      • IdahoPotato
        Mar 2, 2019 at 12:08 am

        I recently got a sleeper-sofa online. It would not fold down properly. Since furniture is so expensive to ship, Wayfair has this ploy where they will ask you to keep the defective item and they will refund you the money. No thanks, I don’t want this elephant in my living room until I pay someone to take it to the dumpster.

        I spent two hours arguing with them and a fortnight with two couches in my living room until they sent someone to take it back.

        Ditto with a dresser from Overstock damaged during shipment. They simply sent me another one. Since it wasn’t too large and the damage was mainly to the back, I kept both.

        I am wary of buying big furniture items online.

        • Mar 2, 2019 at 12:25 am

          IdahoPotato,

          Well, OK, so I had to do a little carpentry work with my power saw to put the armoire together because some of the wood panels were 1/8 of an inch or 1/4 of an inch too large and wouldn’t fit. But hey, the wife was impressed and said that’s why she tolerated a guy in the house, and so I was happy too.

    • Rowen
      Mar 1, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      To compete against Amazon Prime, Sam’s Club offers free shipping for “Plus” memberships on a bunch of their products, so many that they haven’t had time to filter out the ridiculous stuff. And without mark-ups for the “online price”.

      Cases of bottled water, bleach, etc etc.

  4. TruckMan
    Mar 1, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I have taught basic statistics. I always used to use reports as an example. If they tell you only one or two of percentage, percentage change, absolute number, or absolute change, ask for the others.

    As for internet shopping, I still buy a large amount of stuff from local retailers. Their staff know what they are talking about*, they will cut you as good a deal as possible, and give great service. I bought two appliances in the Spring sales last year locally, because they were happy to store the stuff free till August when I’d finished my renos, then deliver free.
    My local hardware store’s plumbing section is run by a retired plumber. Buy a $10 part, get a $50 education. He always has a line of people wanting to speak to him.

    • nick kelly
      Mar 1, 2019 at 7:26 pm

      Plumbing is impervious to modernization ( except for improvements like poly pipe etc)
      It will resist robots, AI and all the siren calls chased by those wanting to be on the latest hot trend.
      You have a better chance of being financially secure in plumbing than in tech.

      • James R. Chaillet, Jr., MD
        Mar 1, 2019 at 7:52 pm

        Dirty jobs not done cheap.

      • TruckMan
        Mar 1, 2019 at 7:54 pm

        Friend of mine sold his 3 travel agencies in 2005 and retrained as a plumber. He now has money and work coming out of his ears.
        I do my own plumbing, and do it gratis for neighbors who can’t afford professionals.

        • Paulo
          Mar 2, 2019 at 12:03 pm

          Electrical is the trade, as far as I’m concerned. I am a carpenter with a ticket but everyone is a ‘carpenter’, or thinks they are. Same with plumbing. But for service upgrades and for insurance coverage you have to be able to pull a permit so electricians are protected by the safety and insurance regime. My son is an electrician, works full time in the oil patch on electric vehicles on a two week rotation, and also operates a business at home with his 4th year apprentice. Son pulls the permits and can be reached at work by phone for any questions, and is available to help a bit on days off. I have hired the apprentice for jobs and his work is excellent.

          The work is charged out at $70/hour. Apprentice makes $40/hr. Son uses the $30 to cover truck, WCB, etc. He can use the business to write off flights to and from his regular job, and everything else. Permits and fees are on top of the hourly charge. The service fills a niche in our remote area and son is still able to make a very good living in Industry at the same time.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
        Mar 1, 2019 at 11:47 pm

        Nick Kelley – Yep that’s where I made a mistake, not seeing that the whole process is one of getting humans out of it, so it’s all done by machines, from assembling the circuit boards to programming ’em, by machines, where said machines are owned by the rich.

        But plumbing? That job’s gonna be eternal.

    • Rosebud
      Mar 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Person to Person contact! Valuable
      Jt is not what you know, but who you know!

  5. gary
    Mar 1, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    “Why hassle with going to the store a day later – time and expense – when they bring it to the door a day earlier at the same cost? I don’t know either.”

    So, Wolf, what happens when you’re not home when the delivery guy comes?

    • Mar 1, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      My 24/7 global media-mogul-empire headquarters is in what is by design the master bedroom (we sleep in the back bedroom with view of Alcatraz and the Bay).

      Even if it weren’t so… if you track the delivery (which you usually can these days), you know when the stuff arrives and you’ll be able to make arrangements for those two hours.

      Despite what it may seem, we don’t buy living room sets and washers very often :-]

      And whether you’re buying your big items at a local store (which often also has to order it) or online, the delivery and installation issues are the same.

      • Jessy S
        Mar 2, 2019 at 3:23 am

        And that is usually a custom whatever from insert store here. This includes merchandise from the local home center (usually Menards in the midwest but also includes Home Depot or Lowes. It can also include a custom recliner or couch from a furniture store or fridge from the appliance store.

  6. Marcus
    Mar 1, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    This is all playing out in a raging hot job market and people spending like wild. Plus, the often-reported-here corporate debt bubble. So, what happens to brick and mortar in a recession?

  7. nick kelly
    Mar 1, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Wow. I can see ordering a computer on- line, they are will be identical same color, one size fits all …

    But I thought Nord was a clothes outfit i.e. mainly a women’s outfit.
    Don’t those nice humans like to try stuff on, look in the mirror. throw stuff around (lol)

    I thought they ENJOYED the mall!

    If they are going online for clothes, Simon props may be in more trouble than they think.

    • Mar 1, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      Yes, that’s why Nordstrom’s data is so crucial…. there are so many misconceptions about this out there.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
        Mar 1, 2019 at 11:50 pm

        Nordie’s is actually not only clothes but a very well through of shoe department for men and children as well as women, and it’s usually got a very nice restaurant in it too, and it may have other strengths I may not know about like make-up or bedding so it’s not just clothing.

        • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit
          Mar 2, 2019 at 1:42 am

          Thought of.

    • Jessy S
      Mar 2, 2019 at 3:43 am

      Women want clothes, but they look for a ton of stuff online. If they see something they like, one click puts it in their cart. When done, they’ll just charge it to the card and later return everything they don’t want.

      On the other hand, men will simply waltz into a store or online and make their purchase. This week’s Funky Winkerbean is a good example of what happens when men shop. Les needed a new sportscoat so he went to the store to get one and purchased the first thing he tried on. Granted this was in a physical store, but it is still relevant to the discussion.

      • nick kelly
        Mar 2, 2019 at 9:19 am

        It would be interesting to know the ratio of men’s clothing stores/spending to women’s.

        Out household is not typical in that the lady has at least 20 times my articles. Probably closer to 50 but at least 20. Part of this is her job which involves calling on customers but largely also her preference. From high school to now, no one has described me as a ‘sharp’ dresser.

        I suspect the ratio of women’s spending to men’s overall is at least an order of magnitude, i.e. 10: 1

        Society is so indifferent (tolerant?) of even male business attire that a major Australian TV anchor wore the same suit for a year and no one noticed.

        The relevance to the mall is that although it has merchandise other than women’s apparel, that is the mainstay and it can’t survive as is without that traffic. It will have to re-configure if they buy online.

  8. Rowen
    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    More retail lights will go out…

    Gap, Victoria Secrets, and Foot Locker combined 450 locations. We won’t know how many of these closures are from online sales or depopulation until the store locations are disclosed.

    • andy
      Mar 1, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Went to Nordstrom to buy simple black jeans. They only have 50 types of skinny jeans. I thought those were 2012 fashion. Sales people standing chating and looking thru you. Went home and bought black jeans from Walmart online for $9.95 believe it or not. Same quality as $200 black jeans from Nordstrom. Not that walmart quality is great, it’s the nordstrom quality that’s poor.

      • Rob Banks
        Mar 2, 2019 at 10:28 am

        Had the same experience at Nordstrom. Went for basic jeans and all they have is skinny jean-colored stretch pants. Went to Dillards and got the basic Levis 505. I’ll need another pair in 10-15 years, the Levis are the same as they always were.

        • California Bob
          Mar 3, 2019 at 8:03 pm

          Levis??? Wrangler jeans–from Target–cost 30% of Levis, are at least as good quality, and fit my manspread better.

    • yngso
      Mar 2, 2019 at 6:09 am

      According to someone like David Stockman, retail death is about the lousy economic reality of people working 2 or 3 low pay jobs and have no money to spend.
      Online gets lauded for disrupting, but maybe it’s rather a cosequence of shiftng economic realities?

      • Mar 2, 2019 at 9:28 am

        yngso,

        Total retail sales rose 5% in the year 2018, compared to 2017. Even in December, which produced “dreadful” retail sales data, according to the media, retail sales rose 2.3% from December a year earlier (it’s slower growth, but it’s still growth).

        Retail sales are growing because Americans are buying more — they’re just buying more online. That’s a huge distinction that I have been making ever since I started covering the “brick-and-mortar meltdown.”

        It’s brick and mortar sales that are melting down, while online sales are booming. The net effect is that overall retail sales are growing.

        We will get the Q4 retail sales data soon, which will include revised data for the three months, plus e-commerce sales. I’ll cover it with charts as I do every quarter.

        This article is about the December retail sales:
        https://wolfstreet.com/2019/02/14/why-im-not-in-panic-yet-over-dreadful-retail-sales-that-fell-most-since-2009-but-nervously-look-at-the-trend/

        • Bart
          Mar 4, 2019 at 6:18 am

          Wolf,

          Any thoughts on SIG? They just offered up voluntary separation for all their Corp employees in Dallas Tx and Akron Oh and if enough don’t bite in March, the axe comes out in April. They are way overstorred and late to the e-commerce party. No PE firm involved yet…

        • Mar 4, 2019 at 9:21 am

          Yes, Signet Jewelers missed the boat on building out its online presence — one of those retailers that thought that their customers would always want to buy their stuff at physical stores and that e-commerce was too small to worry about. But it has an additional problem: diamonds aren’t hot anymore. That’s an industry problem. So they’re in a tough spot.

    • TheDona
      Mar 2, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      @Rowen. Gap has been underperforming for years. Announced this week they are spinning Old Navy out on it’s own as a separate publicly traded company. Gap and it’s other brands will be known as NewCo. Old Navy and Athleta have been the growth areas for them. In earnings call report a couple years ago, The Gap brand was taking a beating on online order returns. I can personally attest that their QA/QC disappeared 20+ years ago with crazy size discrepancies and manufacturing defects so not surprised about all of the returns. Gap will be closing stores as leases end and are also closing underperforming stores.

      VC: Sales way down across the board including the Pink brand. Same story of closing as leases end and also stores that are underperforming. They totally missed the memo that women actually want to wear comfortable bras and Girls don’t want to walk around with PINK across their butt anymore. They have been asleep at the wheel for some time.

      Footlocker: Sales are up but they want to close in less desirable areas and open them in more upscale.

      Both Nordies and Neimans opened too many small concept stores and you basically have to oder online because they don’t have much at these small stores.

      • 728huey
        Mar 3, 2019 at 7:12 pm

        Victoria’s Secret has been losing sales for their undergarments for some time now, but their Pink brand had been holding up the company until recently. These days they’re getting some serious competition, especially online, from companies like Fashion Nova and Zaful. If you have never heard of these companies, that’s because they cater to Millennials and Gen-Z who are very active on social media. Fashion Nova in particular has recruited Kylie Jenner (one of the Kardashians) as a social media influencer, and there are tons of young women on Instagram and YouTube who regularly put up videos of their fashion hauls. Plus Fashion Nova will create fashion lines for irregular shaped and plus-size women. Given the choice of looking at some super sexy yet stick-thin supermodel or getting a review from Courtney in Toledo or Jessica in Fayetteville, NC, younger shoppers are going to trust their peers. Plus younger shoppers are willing to wait days or even weeks to have stuff delivered directly to their doorstep and just return what they don’t want.

  9. ROSEBUD
    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    The Worlds Capitalistic predicament (prick) is held hostage
    by a few thousand grandmothers playing with on-line pricing. Their work is Vital.

  10. Larster
    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Online shopping is very simple. However, wait until you need service on appliances, as an example. All of a sudden, you are invisible, because theydonotcontrol the chain at that point. One of the issues is that appliance mfrs now test them in your home, notbefore they offer them on the mkt. This will get sorted out, but for now buyer beware.

    • Howard Fritz
      Mar 1, 2019 at 8:43 pm

      So true!

    • Javert Chip
      Mar 1, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      My experience as been a little different.

      I live in Florida (central east coast), a mid-market area. I order most appliances on-line, but buy some locally.

      Whichever way I buy, getting repairs means using 3rd-party “authorized dealers”, which is almost never the local vendor I bought from.

      My perspective is buying local or on-line means using the same 3rd-party repair guys (who are usually pretty good).

      • Cyclops
        Mar 3, 2019 at 12:31 am

        I know one woman who orders three sizes of one particular clothes or shoes and returns the two wrong sizes all the time with free shipping. What a sheer waste of shipping and logistics!

      • MaryR
        Mar 10, 2019 at 3:44 pm

        We bought a new over the stove microwave at Best Buy and they did not have it in stock but said we could pick it up at the store the next day. Three days later, it finally arrived at the store and we had to pick it up, heft the giant box into the car, and heft it to our doorstep. We found out that we could have shipped it direct to our door for free. So, lesson learned. Stores are for window shopping only…

        Second lovely experience was with Home Depot. I found a large fog free mirror for $44 online, but selected to pick it up in the store. Upon arrival at customer service they wanted to charge me the higher in store price of $53. A manager had to come over and approve the internet price! So, buy online is again the lesson….?

  11. Franz
    Mar 1, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    William Sonoma shifted toward an online model. Over 50% of total sales comes from online. Still have issues with coordinating web orders with retail operations.

  12. David
    Mar 1, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    This past December I bought a 2 in 1 computer from Staples. I had gotten 35 $25 gift cards from my employer. The local store didn’t have the one I wanted. I did not want to enter all those gift cards online. I asked the store manager what were my options. She said order using their store online kiosk and select pay at the register. So was this an in store or online purchase?

    I selected store pick up over home delivery. Both were free. But I did not want my new computer sitting on the front porch in freezing (and possibly snowing) weather while I was at work. I also did not have to worry about it walking off either. Store pickup does have a purpose at times.

  13. SocalJim
    Mar 1, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    You have to give realtors a lot of credit. For more than 15 years, the online world has not dented the realty brokerage business. That MLS thing is gold.

    • David
      Mar 2, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      Zillow is becoming more and more of a threat to the Realtor’s brokerage model every day. Realtors willingly hand over their MLS data (for free) and then pay Zillow to become preferred agents and such. Zillow is buying and flipping houses. Zillow is getting into the mortgage business. I suspect that a vast majority of people looking for real estate today start on Zillow not on their local MLS or on a local brokerage’s website. Realtors are creating the monster that could do them in. Travel agents can feel their pain.

  14. Terry
    Mar 1, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    I have been buying on line for years. Once you find what you like, you can buy in quantity. Just try that a local merchant now days, they have no inventory.
    Also I like specialty stores now days, not available locally.
    Plus the biggy, no more trying to find a place to park in the maul and not having to waste time
    Shopping when you have no time for it. Maul retail is dead, they just are not admitting it.
    Malls are going just like the local Texaco gas station where there were attendants that pumped your gas.

    • yngso
      Mar 2, 2019 at 6:17 am

      I so totally agree on this Silly Saturday, getting mauled ain’t no fun.

      • DawnsEarlyLight
        Mar 2, 2019 at 2:07 pm

        LoL, no matter how you spend your money, it can be totally disfiguring.

  15. ft
    Mar 1, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Online shopping’s predecessor was mail order catalog shopping. I used it a lot, as did my parents. There’s nothing new about buying stuff without getting to touch it first or try it on. Patience was more of a necessary virtue back then, with orders typically taking four weeks or more to show up.

    • Jessy S
      Mar 2, 2019 at 3:54 am

      Especially if you ordered the Ronco thingamajig through the TV. That was two to four weeks of shipping and handling. Plus magazines had mail-order forms for whatever the hell somebody wanted and that took much longer because all the mail went to a single processing facility which had to fill the orders by hand.

      Today, we just hop on Amazon and use our Prime membership to get the thingamajig the very next day.

  16. RD Blakeslee
    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:00 am

    “The two most important considerations for buying on line for me are convenience and choice. It takes me 10 minutes to buy exactly what I want, instead of having to plod from store to store, spent money and time doing it, and not find what I’m looking for.” – Wolf

    Amen!

    PLUS: I can (and do) live in a “remote” rural area and get even more comparative benefits!

    There are no stores to plod to. Don’t need ’em.

  17. Iamafan
    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Maybe it’s better to just ignore the recent numbers and live life with less stress. I’ve been through the last 3 “recessions” and luckily couldn’t tell the difference except for the repression of QE. My opinion is the thing that is strikingly different are the lousier opportunities for my kids. It’s not just the quantity but also the sore lack of quality. I’m not certain they will be able to afford what the previous generation did other than an iPhone. And the student debt out there, disgusting.

  18. R hughes
    Mar 2, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Recent experience, and to confirm the trends. Bought Polk 50 series speakers in best buy store, weak sound, returned to store, 60 series $ 90 more. So on to amazon, 60 series available and for 75 less then in store, then added sw10 subwoofer 80 less then in store. Arrived 2 days later all perfect. While at it found “fever tree” brand tonic water at only slight higher price then Albertsons ( often out of stock – frustrating because it is hard to find ). Ordered 2 cases, arrived carefully packed – bye bye Albertsons. We are young fossils 70’s but rapidly moving to on line purchasing only. Wife already loves chico’s on line and zappos too.

  19. Alex Donkey Chompers
    Mar 2, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Is this some sort of revelations? Everyone knows – or at least assumes – that brick and mortar is dying while the future is online.

    • alexzale
      Mar 7, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Fools to use e-commerce and online to dominate.
      A suitable mix is better for this society and communities.
      Also, only fools would think that Priv. Equity vulture capitalism , massive stock buybacks , easy money made billionaires and millionares , and similar should not be regulated. Modern fools purchase tons of cheaper made imported goods expecting to earn over
      twenty grand yearly for selves.
      All on a Ship of Fools handing over all your data and even ability to use cash to the poers and unseen forces of several monopolies.

  20. Gian
    Mar 2, 2019 at 11:31 am

    No wonder obesity is such a huge (no pun intended) problem in the US. With everything from sundries to food, clothes, appliances, etc…, being delivered to your doorstep, Oprah’s Weight Watcher stock should be booming instead of crashing. Then again, they probably deliver to your doorstep too.

    • Iamafan
      Mar 2, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      I think it’s a matter of convenience and cost. Even my meds are mailed. It’s like forcing me to accept it by mail or pay more. So the choice is made for you.

  21. Mar 2, 2019 at 11:33 am

    The county taxes, commercial insurance and city licenses are quite a burden on the business owner.
    The aholes in local government just take take and take until we fold.
    I am out of business after 37 years, f#ck st louis county !

  22. Wes
    Mar 2, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Even Home Depot and Lowes recently released bad numbers and they’ve been one the few retailers resilient lately.

  23. B Wilds
    Mar 2, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Retailers are closing stores all across America and the impact will be huge. Online retailer Amazon is by far the chief offender causing such grief. Over the last few years, stores such as Target and Macy’s have even had to face a slew of dishonest shoppers trying to sneak defectives products purchased online back as exchanges and trading them for a fresh unbroken product. I have seen this costly abuse recommended by several online shoppers that see this as an “easy fix” while simply brushing aside the ethical issues it creates.

    As stores close much of this space located in the large shopping malls that once flourished in commercial zones of suburbia will grow empty and abandoned.

  24. Ken
    Mar 7, 2019 at 8:35 am

    “ven elderly internet-averse people have discovered online shopping. It’s a godsend because it allows them to buy stuff without having to deal with the physical issues of going shopping,……..

    Then why buy that $60,000 Mexican F150 if you’re not ever going to leave the house.

    Retailers are screwing themselves. We go to the stores (We’re ‘e l d e r l y’ ) and shop because we like to get out. Example we wanted a black appliance. The stores carried them online but not in the store….whyyyyy? Because they want to cheap out. They have forgotten the old saying. “You have to spend money to make money” Sears is a fine example,,, thinking they can sell the cheapo Chinese stuff with prettier packaging for a bigger profit. They, like Montgomery Wards and Penney’s are OOB.

    In a nutshell,,, Americans have no longer have any idea how to operate a business. The customer does it their way or they can take the highway. They’re going political condemning guns and pushing Identity Politics.

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