The shift from offline/brick-and-mortar retail to online eCommerce is a trend that has garnered attention and commentary for much of the last two decades. What was once a niche market focused on selling a few select products and services has ballooned into a nearly $2 trillion industry whose influences dominate the retail industry in more ways than ever before.
Despite the noise, penetration of overall retail sales continues to be in the sub-10% range, particularly outside of the US. Calls for a radical transformation in the retail industry so far have largely not been borne out, and offline retailers have over the last 10-15 years continued to do well. In fact, the list of the world’s largest retailers continues to be dominated by offline retailers, or retailers who were born offline and continue to derive most of their sales from physical retail locations.
However, while evolve-or-die style calls for strategic shifts to eCommerce may have in the past been overblown, recent data and news suggests that this issue is perhaps more pertinent than ever before. A recent article in the New York Times for instance highlighted that “store closures […] are on pace this year to eclipse the number of stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008.” Similarly, retailers are going bankrupt at record rates, and “in a little over three months, fourteen chains have announced they will seek court protection […] almost surpassing all of 2016.”