There was a time when people in America actually went out to buy stuff and avail of services. They’d go to shopping centers for groceries, retail outlets to buy new clothes and appliances, cinemas to watch movies, dining places to eat outside the home. The places also served as venues of social interaction, where friends hung out and couples went out for simple and affordable dates. That was how life was in the years before the rise of the internet, and with it, online buying and electronic commerce sites. The result was an avalanche of mall and store closures in past years that are just mind-boggling to process. Just like now.
CNN reports that as of this week, another retail store chain is closing its brick-and-mortar branches in the real world, as a direct consequence of customers choosing to go online for their shopping. Bebe Stores, once a reasonably popular source of women’s wear that they describe as “unique, sophisticated and timelessly sexy”, made a regulatory filing on Friday April 21 to close all of their stores towards the end of May. No further word has come out of Bebe representatives whether they will only move their business into the internet like most everyone else, or close up shop entirely.
Warning signs were put out by Bebe as late as last March, when they filed to the SEC that they “exploring strategic alternatives” to keeping their real-world branches viable, and even in the beginning of this month they announced the closure of only 28 of their store while they tried to keep the rest going as best they could. These half-measures seem to have turned out for naught. Bebe has 168 retail stores spread across the US and Canada; when May wraps up they’ll all be closed.
Indeed there was a time when malls were kings of retail, led by heavyweight names such as Macy’s Sears and JCPenny, the latter one gutting their real-world operations this February. And March saw Staples knuckling under as well. Sears, owner Kmart, has also been expressing “doubts” of their sustainability.
Blame for this sorry state can be laid at the feet of online retail monsters like Amazon, which has been steadily eating up the market share from physical stores with their uncanny ability to sell anything and everything buyers ever need to buy from their platform. The horrific side effect of this dominance can be found in the many abandoned malls and shopping centers especially in middle America, many of which have been slated for demolition.
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