Retail Demise Due to Rise of the Internet and Inability to Keep Up

Feb 20

The demise of many retail chains is due to the rise of the internet and the inability of some retailers to keep up, says long-time retail executive Gerald Storch. “The proximate cause of the demise of chains like Charlotte Russe, Gymboree, Payless, Toys R Us, and Sears is the rise of the internet and their inability to keep up that environment,” said Storch. “It’s the decline in physical traffic to bricks and mortar stores and the mall.”

Gerald Storch, CEO of Storch Advisors, and an innovative retail executive, formerly CEO of Toys “R” Us and Vice Chairman of Target, discusses why some retailers are failing while others are thriving in an interview on Fox Business:

Retail Comp Store Sales Up 6 Percent During Holiday

Retail sales have been very strong this holiday. Of course, there are winners and losers. The winners are the people who are doing it right, who are mastering the internet and who are driving value to the customer. You see 4.2 percent out of Walmart, almost 6 percent out of Target, over 7 percent out of Costco, and about 18 percent in the US out of Amazon.

I put out an index called the Storch Advisors Index and the volume weighted comp store sales gain of major chains in the US was 6 percent for the holiday season. Of course, there were some poor performers but that’s because they are not keeping up with the consumer. Whether it’s JC Penny, Sears, Macy’s, Kohls, some of those are becoming yesterdays.

Gov. Report Showing Retail Sales Down is Absurd

I know the folks at the government work hard to collect that data but I think there’s something missing there. The world has changed. First of all the internet has happened and I think that makes a big difference. There is no way, if you look at those numbers it says the internet was down in December. Only a report from Washington could say that. That’s ridiculous. It says the internet underperformed department stores for December. Absolutely absurd.

Why can that be true? Actually, the raw data said that sales were up about 9 percent in December. But then they applied a negative 10 percent seasonality discount because it was December. I’m not sure that discount factor was correct. Among other things, both Cyber Monday and Black Friday fell in November this year and they were huge as we saw by all accounts. There is something a little wonky about that report. I choose to put it on the side and say it’s not typical about what’s really going on in retail right now.

Retail Demise Due to Rise of the Internet and Inability to Keep Up

The proximate cause of the demise of chains like Charlotte Russe, Gymboree, Payless, Toys R Us, and Sears is the rise of the internet and their inability to keep up that environment. It’s the decline in physical traffic to bricks and mortar stores and the mall. The origin though comes down to the fact that all of those companies have one thing in common, hedge funds and private equity put huge leverage on those businesses.

So at a time when the world changed and the internet happened, they had to invest huge sums in the internet and they had to make their stores more beautiful than ever. You can only do that with money. All these firms were leveraged right before, bang, this retail apocalypse happened. They had no money to make any difference. It didn’t matter if you had the best management in the world. The management at Charlotte Russe is pretty damn good. But they couldn’t do anything about it because they didn’t have the money to spend. Walmart did have the money to spend. They’ve been spending it and that you are starting to see in the results.

Walmart and Amazon Battle it Out

You have Walmart buying a lot these ecommerce companies to get stronger in ecommerce. Then you have Amazon buying the bricks and mortar. Why did they do that? One reason. To keep up with Walmart in grocery. Grocery is the ultimate perishable, food. It has a lot of waste. Grocery is already around the corner from everyone’s homes. You have to ship them from the stores. Walmart has the stores to do it and they are proving it now. Groceries is one of their best performers in the latest quarter.

Amazon was looking at how do we beat Walmart in grocery? Grocery is a huge market and one of the last ones that Amazon hasn’t conquered. They thought, well, we could try to ship it from wholesalers and centralized locations. They started that way and it does not work. So they bought Whole Foods so they could be around the corner from people’s homes. That’s why they are expanding Whole Foods. They may be the only grocer in the country that is adding locations, all so they can ship to your home.

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