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Retail Apocalypse: Everything You Need to Know

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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 Jet.com, 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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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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Chart of the Week

How the Modern Consumer is Different

We all have a stereotypical image of the average consumer – but is it an accurate one? Meet the modern consumer, and what it means for business.

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How the Modern Consumer is Different

How the Modern Consumer is Different

There is a prevailing wisdom that says the stereotypical American consumer can be defined by certain characteristics.

Based on what popular culture tells us, as well as years of experiences and data, we all have an idea of what the average consumer might look for in a house, car, restaurant, or shopping center.

But as circumstances change, so do consumer tastes – and according to a recent report by Deloitte, the modern consumer is becoming increasingly distinct from those of years past. For us to truly understand how these changes will affect the marketplace and our investments, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer.

A Changing Consumer Base

In their analysis, Deloitte leans heavily on big picture demographic and economic factors to help in summarizing the three major ways in which consumers are changing.

Here are three ways the new consumer is different than in years past:

1. Increasingly Diverse
In terms of ethnicity, the Baby Boomers are 75% white, while the Millennial generation is 56% white. This diversity also transfers to other areas as well, such as sexual and gender identities.

Not surprisingly, future generations are expected to be even more heterogeneous – Gen Z, for example, identifies as being 49% non-white.

2. Under Greater Financial Pressure
Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before, but it’s come at a stiff price. In fact, the cost of education has increased by 65% between 2007 and 2017, and this has translated to a record-setting $1.5 trillion in student loans on the books.

Other costs have mounted as well, leaving the bottom 80% of consumers with effectively no increase in discretionary income over the last decade. To make matters worse, if you single out just the bottom 40% of earners, they actually have less discretionary income to spend than they did back in 2007.

3. Delaying Key Life Milestones
Getting married, having children, and buying a house all have one major thing in common: they can be expensive.

The average person under 35 years old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965, while the U.S. birthrate is at its lowest point in three decades. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.

A New Landscape for Business?

The modern consumer base is more diverse, but also must deal with increased financial pressures and a delayed start in achieving traditional milestones of adulthood. These demographic and economic factors ultimately have a ripple effect down to businesses and investors.

How do these big picture changes impact your business or investments?

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