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Retail Apocalypse: Everything You Need to Know



Retail Apocalypse: Everything You Need to Know

Chart: Retail Apocalypse 2017

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

The steady rise of online retail sales should have surprised no one.

Back in 2000, less than 1% of retail sales came from e-commerce. However, online sales have climbed each and every year since then, even through the Great Recession. By 2009, e-commerce made up about 4.0% of total retail sales, and today the latest number we have is 8.3%.

E-commerce vs. total retail sales

Here’s another knowledge bomb: it’s going to keep growing for the foreseeable future. Huge surprise, right?

Signs of a Reckoning

Retailers eye their competition relentlessly, and the sector also has notoriously thin margins.

The big retailers must have seen the “retail apocalypse” coming. The question is: what did they do about it?

Well, companies like Sears failed the shift to digital altogether – in fact, it is even widely speculated that the former behemoth might file for bankruptcy later this year.

The majority of other companies, on the other hand, are trying to combine “clicks and bricks” into a cohesive strategy. This sounds good in theory, but for established and sprawling brick and mortar retailers with excessive overhead costs, such tactics may not be enough to ward off this powerful secular trend. Target, for example, has had impressive growth in online sales, but they still only make up just 5% of total sales. As a result, the company’s robustness is also in doubt.

Wal-Mart took another route, which could potentially be the smartest one. The company hedged their bets by buying, which was one of the fastest growing online retailers at the time. Later, they followed up by buying an online shoe retailer to help fill a perceived gap in footwear. Recent reports have surfaced, saying that these acquisitions are leading to staff shakeups, as the company re-orients its focus.

After all, going online is not just a tactic to boost sales in the new era of retailing. It has to be a mindset, and one that is central to the company’s strategy. Hopefully Wal-mart gets that, otherwise they will also be in trouble as well.

Apocalypse Now

In the midst of all of this is what is described as the “retail apocalypse”.

There are two main metrics that are pretty black and white:

Number of Bankruptcies: We’re not even one-third through 2017, and we already have about as many retail bankruptcies as the previous year’s total. If they continue at the current pace, we could see over 50 retailers bankrupt by the end of the year.

Number of Store Closings: So far we’ve seen roughly 3,000 store closings announced in 2017, and Credit Suisse estimates that could hit 8,600 by the end of the year. That would easily surpass 2008’s total, which was 6,200 closings, to be the worst year in recent memory.

Here’s some of the companies that have already filed for bankruptcy:

  • Gordmans Stores
  • Gander Mountain
  • Radioshack (again)
  • HHGregg
  • BCBG Max Azria
  • Eastern Outfitters
  • Wet Seal
  • The Limited
  • Vanity Shop of Grand Forks
  • Payless Inc.
  • MC Sports

And here are the store closings occurring as a result of the retail apocalypse:

Retail Closings

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Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt has soared since the pandemic. Which countries have the biggest stockpile of debt outstanding in 2023?



Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt is projected to hit $97.1 trillion this year, a 40% increase since 2019.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments introduced sweeping financial measures to support the job market and prevent a wave of bankruptcies. However, this has exposed vulnerabilities as higher interest rates are amplifying borrowing costs.

This graphic shows global debt by country in 2023, based on projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Debt by Country in 2023

Below, we rank countries by their general government gross debt, or the financial liabilities owed by each country:

CountryGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
🇺🇸 U.S.$33,228.934.2%123.3%
🇨🇳 China$14,691.715.1%83.0%
🇯🇵 Japan$10,797.211.1%255.2%
🇬🇧 UK$3,468.73.6%104.1%
🇫🇷 France$3,353.93.5%110.0%
🇮🇹 Italy$3,141.43.2%143.7%
🇮🇳 India$3,056.73.1%81.9%
🇩🇪 Germany$2,919.33.0%65.9%
🇨🇦 Canada$2,253.32.3%106.4%
🇧🇷 Brazil$1,873.71.9%88.1%
🇪🇸 Spain$1,697.51.7%107.3%
🇲🇽 Mexico$954.61.0%52.7%
🇰🇷 South Korea$928.11.0%54.3%
🇦🇺 Australia$875.90.9%51.9%
🇸🇬 Singapore$835.00.9%167.9%
🇧🇪 Belgium$665.20.7%106.0%
🇦🇷 Argentina$556.50.6%89.5%
🇮🇩 Indonesia$552.80.6%39.0%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$540.90.6%49.5%
🇵🇱 Poland$419.40.4%49.8%
🇬🇷 Greece$407.20.4%168.0%
🇹🇷 Türkiye$397.20.4%34.4%
🇷🇺 Russia$394.80.4%21.2%
🇦🇹 Austria$393.60.4%74.8%
🇪🇬 Egypt$369.30.4%92.7%
🇨🇭 Switzerland$357.70.4%39.5%
🇹🇭 Thailand$314.50.3%61.4%
🇮🇱 Israel$303.60.3%58.2%
🇵🇹 Portugal$299.40.3%108.3%
🇲🇾 Malaysia$288.30.3%66.9%
🇿🇦 South Africa$280.70.3%73.7%
🇵🇰 Pakistan$260.90.3%76.6%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$257.70.3%24.1%
🇮🇪 Ireland$251.70.3%42.7%
🇵🇭 Philippines$250.90.3%57.6%
🇫🇮 Finland$225.00.2%73.6%
🇳🇴 Norway$204.50.2%37.4%
🇨🇴 Colombia$200.10.2%55.0%
🇹🇼 Taiwan$200.00.2%26.6%
🇸🇪 Sweden$192.90.2%32.3%
🇷🇴 Romania$178.70.2%51.0%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh$175.90.2%39.4%
🇺🇦 Ukraine$152.80.2%88.1%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$152.20.2%45.4%
🇳🇬 Nigeria$151.30.2%38.8%
🇦🇪 UAE$149.70.2%29.4%
🇻🇳 Vietnam$147.30.2%34.0%
🇭🇺 Hungary$140.00.1%68.7%
🇨🇱 Chile$132.20.1%38.4%
🇩🇰 Denmark$126.70.1%30.1%
🇮🇶 Iraq$125.50.1%49.2%
🇩🇿 Algeria$123.50.1%55.1%
🇳🇿 New Zealand$115.00.1%46.1%
🇮🇷 Iran$112.10.1%30.6%
🇲🇦 Morocco$102.70.1%69.7%
🇶🇦 Qatar$97.50.1%41.4%
🇵🇪 Peru$89.70.1%33.9%
🇦🇴 Angola$79.60.1%84.9%
🇰🇪 Kenya$79.10.1%70.2%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$75.40.1%56.7%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic$72.10.1%59.8%
🇪🇨 Ecuador$65.90.1%55.5%
🇸🇩 Sudan$65.50.1%256.0%
🇬🇭 Ghana$65.10.1%84.9%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan$60.70.1%23.4%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia$59.00.1%37.9%
🇧🇭 Bahrain$54.50.1%121.2%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica$53.90.1%63.0%
🇭🇷 Croatia$51.20.1%63.8%
🇺🇾 Uruguay$47.00.0%61.6%
🇯🇴 Jordan$46.90.0%93.8%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$46.80.0%68.5%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire$45.10.0%56.8%
🇵🇦 Panama$43.50.0%52.8%
🇲🇲 Myanmar$43.00.0%57.5%
🇴🇲 Oman$41.40.0%38.2%
🇹🇳 Tunisia$39.90.0%77.8%
🇷🇸 Serbia$38.50.0%51.3%
🇧🇴 Bolivia$37.80.0%80.8%
🇹🇿 Tanzania$35.80.0%42.6%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan$31.70.0%35.1%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$30.90.0%95.4%
🇧🇾 Belarus$30.40.0%44.1%
🇬🇹 Guatemala$29.10.0%28.3%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$28.70.0%36.1%
🇸🇻 El Salvador$25.80.0%73.0%
🇺🇬 Uganda$25.30.0%48.3%
🇸🇳 Senegal$25.20.0%81.0%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$25.20.0%78.6%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$24.60.0%27.6%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR$23.50.0%6.1%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$21.70.0%21.0%
🇨🇲 Cameroon$20.60.0%41.9%
🇲🇿 Mozambique$19.70.0%89.7%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico$19.60.0%16.7%
🇳🇵 Nepal$19.30.0%46.7%
🇱🇻 Latvia$18.90.0%40.6%
🇮🇸 Iceland$18.70.0%61.2%
🇵🇾 Paraguay$18.10.0%40.9%
🇱🇦 Lao P.D.R.$17.30.0%121.7%
🇭🇳 Honduras$15.70.0%46.3%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea$15.70.0%49.5%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago$14.60.0%52.5%
🇦🇱 Albania$14.50.0%62.9%
🇨🇬 Republic of Congo$14.10.0%97.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan$14.10.0%18.2%
🇾🇪 Yemen$14.00.0%66.4%
🇯🇲 Jamaica$13.60.0%72.3%
🇲🇳 Mongolia$13.10.0%69.9%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso$12.70.0%61.2%
🇬🇦 Gabon$12.50.0%64.9%
🇬🇪 Georgia$11.90.0%39.6%
🇲🇺 Mauritius$11.80.0%79.7%
🇦🇲 Armenia$11.80.0%47.9%
🇧🇸 Bahamas$11.70.0%84.2%
🇲🇱 Mali$11.00.0%51.8%
🇲🇹 Malta$11.00.0%54.1%
🇰🇭 Cambodia$10.90.0%35.3%
🇧🇯 Benin$10.60.0%53.0%
🇲🇼 Malawi$10.40.0%78.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia$9.00.0%21.6%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo$9.00.0%13.3%
🇷🇼 Rwanda$8.80.0%63.3%
🇳🇦 Namibia$8.50.0%67.6%
🇲🇬 Madagascar$8.50.0%54.0%
🇳🇪 Niger$8.30.0%48.7%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia$8.20.0%51.6%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina$7.70.0%28.6%
🇲🇻 Maldives$7.70.0%110.3%
🇬🇳 Guinea$7.30.0%31.6%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua$7.20.0%41.5%
🇧🇧 Barbados$7.20.0%115.0%
🇹🇬 Togo$6.10.0%67.2%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic$6.00.0%47.0%
🇲🇩 Moldova$5.60.0%35.1%
🇹🇩 Chad$5.40.0%43.2%
🇰🇼 Kuwait$5.40.0%3.4%
🇲🇷 Mauritania$5.10.0%49.5%
🇭🇹 Haiti$5.10.0%19.6%
🇬🇾 Guyana$4.90.0%29.9%
🇲🇪 Montenegro$4.60.0%65.8%
🇫🇯 Fiji$4.60.0%83.6%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan$4.20.0%5.1%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan$4.00.0%33.5%
🇧🇼 Botswana$3.90.0%18.7%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea$3.80.0%38.3%
🇸🇷 Suriname$3.80.0%107.0%
🇸🇸 South Sudan$3.80.0%60.4%
🇧🇹 Bhutan$3.30.0%123.4%
🇦🇼 Aruba$3.20.0%82.9%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$3.10.0%88.9%
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde$2.90.0%113.1%
🇧🇮 Burundi$2.30.0%72.7%
🇱🇷 Liberia$2.30.0%52.3%
🇽🇰 Kosovo$2.20.0%21.3%
🇸🇿 Eswatini$2.00.0%42.4%
🇧🇿 Belize$1.90.0%59.3%
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia$1.80.0%74.2%
🇬🇲 Gambia$1.70.0%72.3%
🇩🇯 Djibouti$1.60.0%41.8%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda$1.60.0%80.5%
🇸🇲 San Marino$1.50.0%74.0%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau$1.50.0%73.9%
🇱🇸 Lesotho$1.50.0%61.3%
🇦🇩 Andorra$1.40.0%37.7%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic$1.40.0%50.1%
🇸🇨 Seychelles$1.30.0%60.8%
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines$0.90.0%86.2%
🇬🇩 Grenada$0.80.0%60.2%
🇩🇲 Dominica$0.70.0%93.9%
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis$0.60.0%53.2%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu$0.50.0%46.8%
🇰🇲 Comoros$0.50.0%33.3%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe$0.40.0%58.5%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands$0.40.0%22.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam$0.30.0%2.3%
🇼🇸 Samoa$0.30.0%36.2%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste$0.30.0%16.4%
🇵🇼 Palau$0.20.0%85.4%
🇹🇴 Tonga$0.20.0%41.1%
🇫🇲 Micronesia$0.10.0%12.5%
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands$0.10.0%18.1%
🇳🇷 Nauru<$0.10.0%29.1%
🇰🇮 Kiribati<$0.10.0%13.1%
🇹🇻 Tuvalu<$0.10.0%8.0%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR<$0.10.0%0.0%
🌐 World$97,129.8100%93.0%

With $33.2 trillion in government debt, the U.S. makes up over a third of the world total.

Given the increasing debt load, the cost of servicing this debt now accounts for 20% of government spending. It is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2028, surpassing the total spent on defense.

The world’s third-biggest economy, Japan, has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios, at 255%. Over the last two decades, its national debt has far exceeded 100% of its GDP, driven by an aging population and social security expenses.

In 2023, Egypt faces steep borrowing costs, with 40% of revenues going towards debt repayments. It has the highest debt on the continent.

Like Egypt, several emerging companies are facing strain. Lebanon has been in default since 2020, and Ghana defaulted on the majority of its external debt—debt owed to foreign lenders—in 2022 amid a deepening economic crisis.

Global Debt: A Regional Perspective

How does debt compare on a regional level in 2023?

RegionGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
North America$36,451.837.5%117.6%
Asia and Pacific$34,257.435.3%92.5%
South America$3,164.93.3%77.2%
Africa $1,863.61.9%65.2%
Other/Rest of World$1,269.11.3%31.4%

We can see that North America has both the highest debt and debt to GDP compared to other regions. Just as U.S. debt has ballooned, so has Canada’s—ranking as the 10th-highest globally in government debt outstanding.

Across Asia and the Pacific, debt levels hover close to North America.

At 3.3% of the global total, South America has $3.2 trillion in debt. As inflation has trended downwards, a handful of governments have already begun cutting interest rates. Overall, public debt levels are projected to stay elevated across the region.

Debt levels have also risen rapidly in Africa, with an average 40% of public debt held in foreign currencies—leaving it exposed to exchange rate fluctuations. Another challenge is that interest rates are also higher across the region compared to advanced economies, increasing debt-servicing costs.

By 2028, the IMF projects that global public debt will exceed 100% of GDP, hitting levels only seen during the pandemic.

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