Retail nosedives

Forever 21 is filing for bankruptcy, sort of a bursting of the fashion bubble. It is closing over 350 stores worldwide. This is a store with trendy cheap merchandise made to look like coveted designer apparel. One feel of the clothing and that tells the whole story. Even the younger generation has well tossed a grenade into this type of shopping, they have ceased for the most part in investing in flimsy eco-unfriendly practices that plays a major role in this type of merchandise. They are still interested in the “it” bag, shoe, clothing item or jewelry item, and are willing to invest in fine quality, not items to be tossed to goodwill in a couple of years or less. This is a total waste of money. I suppose my thinking goes back to what I was taught, if you only had $500 to spend on clothing, you bought one classic style item not 50, $10 items that will surely end up in a garage sale.

This store did go from seven countries to forty-seven in less than six years. The only countries that will have any of these stores is the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The rest is history.

The younger generation who shopped there as I said did change the way they shop and it all has to do with being an individual instead of looking like everyone else. These are the types of stores that will go under. The way people of all ages are shopping has changed, and since there are quite a few retail stores not prepared for this. They should have seen the handwriting on the wall with internet sales, but were not paying attention and thought things would go on as they had been.

67 retailers have filed for bankruptcy and this does not include retailers who have closed a number of stores. Victoria’s Secret, Chicos, Gap, Rockport, JC Penney, Gumps, Nine West Holdings, Dollar Store, Diesel, Charlotte Russe, Claire’s, Brookstone, Mattress Firm, A’gace, Charming Charlie, Rue 21, True Religion, Radio Shack, The Limited, Sears, Pier 1, JCrew, these are but a few of the stores that either declared bankruptcy or have massive store closings. I don’t think anyone thought that this would happen to retail.

Mall shopping is significantly down and if you have a retail shop in a mall, your days are numbered. Even the stores that are the anchors in large malls, are suffering. One of the problems was many retailers didn’t have an online presence until it was too late, they were not prepared. So many of the retailers had huge mounting debt. Nine West Holdings owes more than $one billion to creditors. Some are forced to sell to pay off debts. Retail is not a place for the faint of heart.

These are educated guesses as to what is ahead  One year from now, only the most agile retailers will survive and bloom again. The immediate investments have to be targeted on supply chain and inventory optimization. Pure players have set new customer service standards that have to be matched by traditional retailers: fast deliveries, click and collect, ship from store, easy returns.”

The prime function of the retailer will be customer experience. There has not been anything “invented” at this point that can replace a good sales assistant. The computer still can’t compete with a great sales assistant, who does have the 5 senses that no bot or machine can duplicate.

Men and women alike would be willing to go to the Mall to receive that first class sincere treatment only a great sales assistant can give. if there were those sales personnel who would be classified as a shopper, finding merchandise the buyer per se does not have time to look for. Sales personnel who can remember a name, know sizes, knows what colors a buyer likes, these are things appreciated by the buyer. If there had been more of this there would be stores that would not be closing today. Let’s be honest, there are still things that one needs to see and feel and touch first hand before purchasing and the advice one can receive from an experienced and honest sales assistant means a lot to the person doing the buying. Today you can wander around in a store till eternity and never be asked if you need help, and then yes there were stores where you were approached by just one too many sales personnel, but that is something I have not experienced in a long time. I am greeted at the door and then that is it. I mean I am a great shopper, but once in a while, I am out of my element when I am looking for like hubcaps for my Toyota. I now know what I need to do simply because a very nice man explained what I should get and what I should not get. I could have gone online and if it was wrong go through the return route and delay further my purchase which I had already put off. What retailers need to do is have employees educated about what is sold, not just where it is. I know how to wander around and follow arrows till I find the item, I may need some education about it and as odd as it may seem, I would think the employee who works there should know something about what he is selling.

I suppose I am getting at the reach out and touch someone, thank you AT&T. Maybe there are those who want to be left alone and get their stuff and get out. Maybe there are those who look at shopping like a physical get together like FaceBook is an online get together. Maybe there are those who live alone need to get out and see someone even if it a clerk in the store. If people can get out and have a pleasant experience at a retail store, then maybe retail stores will do better than just survive, and if they do not emphasize a pleasant shopping experience for the consumer then they will not survive and store closings and bankruptcies is where they are headed.

Thank you JCK magazine, Emili Vesilind, editor

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