Americans Are Turning Their Backs to Department Stores

Yet that should not necessarily spell their death. Anyone walking around massive department stores at Anytown, Anywhere, in the United States as long back as the early 2000s could sense that something did not add up in these colossi. Empty aisles, a general untidiness even in stores that were in between discount and high-end, and bored staff were not signs of good things.

Still, a visit to the mall was as American as apple pie in the world of U.S. suburbia, and it still is. Families stroll around the polished floors and sit down for a meal on weekends or after church. But Sears, long struggling, is shutting down 150 stores. It also sold its almost centenarian Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Macy’s, too, is closing 100 stores and will cut other costs.

It’s not only the mid-range that’s hurting. Neiman Marcus, the luxury department store, is calling off its initial public offering, all of 17 months after filing with U.S. regulators for a stock listing. That was an unusually lengthy wait, and all for nothing. It was “a tacit acknowledgment,” Fortune reports, that its shares “would probably only fetch bargain basement prices.”

All these household names have been hit by the likes of T.J. Maxx discount retailers and Amazon. As said, brick and mortar department stores will still have their place in the American consumer’s universe. But it will be a smaller one. It will take fewer of them to sell the same volumes as in the past.

Those announcements usually mean people—a lot of them—left without a job. That also means less purchasing power. Yet if these efficiencies mean anything, they should eventually result in more bang for the buck for everybody. Except, of course, for those who are out of work.

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