The ever-changing shopping world

Department Stores Nushi Mazumdar/THE REVIEW
“Popular department stores, such as Macy’s, are declining in number over the years.

Senior Reporter

Technology is constantly changing and making everyday tasks easier and more convenient, including shopping. The steep decline in retail and department stores represents a growing trend away from in-store shopping.

Last year alone, 3,800 department and retail stores were slated to close, which certainly demonstrates that this growing issue is more than an isolated problem.

The department and retail stores that are closing down tend to be the brands that have been around the longest, according to Afia Asamoah, a sophomore fashion merchandising major.

Especially with times changing and technology becoming more prominent, stores must adapt to compete and stay relevant in this different atmosphere.

For instance, one of the most common means of adapting to this new environment is initiating an online site.

Online shopping offers customers “convenience,” according to professor Brenda Shaffer, the director of undergraduate studies and an instructor of various courses within the department of fashion and apparel studies.

“Online shopping provides convenience: We can shop on our mobile phones, we can shop in our pajamas, we can shop in two minutes between classes,” Shaffer says.

Despite this change in format, stores are still often forced to close.

“Some of these really large retailers have had a hard time with the transformation process,” Shaffer says. “Their e-commerce sales have not made up for what they lost in sales. There is a decline in total sales.”

Online shopping is not necessarily the solution to stores shutting down, as brick-and-mortar stores can attract shoppers with an experience that online shopping cannot offer its users.

“[Brick-and-mortar stores] are a place to be social, relax and release stress,” Hye-Shin Kim, a professor of fashion and apparel studies, says.

Especially with students and other young adults, shopping has been adapting to consumer preferences. “With millennials, some of the money is being spent on the experience: going to a nice restaurant, going on a trip,” Shaffer says.

Story, a store in New York, offers such an experience for shoppers, with its unique concept that cannot be found online.

The store changes often and adapts to the seasons and holidays of the year, so customers can always expect a new experience every time they enter the store.

“The store changes by theme every couple of months,” Shaffer says. “Everything in the store: products, workshops, experiences that you would have it is all centered around a theme.”

But not all stores are facing bankruptcy or any serious financial struggles, particularly off-price stores.

“Almost all of Nordstrom’s growth has been seen in its off-price store, Nordstrom Rack,” Shaffer says.

This trend is also seen with stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, so middle-class customers may have fewer options.

Despite the decline in department and retail stores, there is still a great possibility that they will be here to stay for a while.

“Technology will enhance consumer shopping experience, and retailers who are in tune with consumers will survive,” Kim says.

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