Depending on who you talk to, the retail industry is either in a free fall or in the midst of a renaissance. The tale of two retails couldn’t be starker. On one hand, store closures are up four times already this year over last, more people are going online, and bankruptcies are piling up such as Payless, Rue21 and most recently, Toys ‘R Us. Department store sales are down 40% from 2000-2016. Sounds pessimistic.
On the other hand, 76 percent of retailers beat Q2 earnings, Tier A/B mall vacancies are at their lowest levels in 10 years, e-commerce only commands a 12% share and consumer confidence is rising. As further validation, digital natives like Amazon, Warby Parker and Bonobos are all investing in physical retail presences.
Both tales are true, and the result is a retail industry under rapid churning transformation with rising economic tides and increased competition from digital natives. The imperative for reimagining the future of retail has never been more pressing. As the CEO of a company that builds next-generation interactive retail displays, I witness the real struggles of brands and retailers that see the future but are hindered by the operations of today. Like a child learning to walk, retailers are remarkably clear on what they want to do, but stumble in the coordination of all the parts.