It’s tempting, even popular these days to claim that e-commerce is wiping out traditional retailing. It’s also wrong.
The demonstrable reality is that online and in-store retail can coexist quite nicely, even beneficially with e-commerce. Consider the International Council of Shopping Centers’ recent calculation that roughly half of U.S. online sales in 2016 were generated by retailers born of bricks and mortar.
To be sure, e-commerce is growing rapidly, but much of that growth can be traced to retailers firmly established in both worlds. That has substantial implications going forward for retail property.
The days of U.S. equity markets judging retailers by how many stores they open are gone. Retailers’ performance is now judged by many more variables, including their balance of online and in-store sales, the flexibility of their supply chains and new store formats. They now have far more data and tools available to them than ever before to analyze potential store sites.
Still, we’re now seeing well-known retailers fail due to sins of the past, be it debt loads incurred in private-equity buyouts or overly aggressive expansion or the rigidity of their concepts. The temptation, then, is to assume that the struggles of Toys R Us, Sports Authority, bankrupt retailers and various department stores are representative of the broader industry. That’s not accurate for several reasons: