Last fall’s Black Friday sales results demonstrated the growing domination of online retail. The Wall Street Journal reported consumer traffic in U.S. stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday declined 4% from the prior year, while online sales increased 18%.[1]

Experts believe the retail industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation, as iconic brands such as Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s are closing stores, laying off workers and retrenching. The shift to online sales is driving retailers to adopt new strategies and rethink their store layouts, square footage needs and stock selection.

Traditional retailers such as Walmart, Target, Whole Foods Market and Dollar General see customer shopping patterns changing. Ease and speed are paramount to young, urban, mobile consumers who make smaller purchases at convenience, drug and dollar stores while on the go. Nielsen researchers found 61% of shopping trips were made to fill an immediate need.[2]

Many chains are building smaller stores and tailoring their selection to trending and seasonal items. These smaller stores boast personalized customer service and deliver a unique shopping experience. Even Amazon is experimenting with brick-and-mortar bookstores to build relationships with customers and personalize its brand.[3]

Shopping malls are turning into “zombie malls” across the country as buying patterns change. Some malls are converting vacant space into mixed-use leases for apartments, restaurants and other lifestyle amenities.[4] Smaller stores are shifting away from reliance on anchor department stores to drive traffic and instead are creating their own unique shopping experiences as part of an appealing lifestyle mix.

Some department stores and specialty chains are focusing on creating a personalized on-site shopping experience. Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters are downsizing their square footage in some locations and creating smaller showrooms. Boutique-style salons feature a curated selection of merchandise and customer service is lavish. Orders are placed for delivery or collection later by the customer.[5]

The transformation of the retail industry is far from over. By downsizing layouts, adapting quickly to changing shopping patterns and presenting unique experiences, retail stores are employing new strategies to attract consumers. 

[1] “The Morning Download: Retail Feels Full Force of Online Shift,” by Steve Rosenbush, The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 27, 2017. Available at:

[2] “Retailers Go Small as ‘Immediate Needs’ Drive 61% of Shopping Trips,” by Glenn Taylor, Retail Touchpoints blog, April 7, 2017. Available at:

[3] “Is American Retail at a Historic Tipping Point?” by Michael Corkery, The New York Times, April 15, 2017. Available at:

[4] “Retail Apocalypse? More Like A Retail Transformation,” by Glenn Taylor, Retail Touchpoints blog, Aug. 29, 2017. Available at:

[5] “Retailers Experiment With a New Philosophy: Smaller is Better,” by Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times, Nov. 17, 2017. Available at:

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