Too soon to write obituaries for department stores, despite closures and bad sales reports, says IU Kelley School expert

14823641123_afb4bbf0da_z-300x221John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing in the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, has followed retail trends for a quarter century, including as a vice president or chief executive at three retailers before coming to Kelley.

While many question the future of established retailers, in light of disappointing sales reports at department stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s and closures at Sears and Kmart, Talbott believes it is too soon to write obituaries for these traditional brands.

“It depends on what one means by the term ‘department store,'” Talbott said. “Despite reporting disappointing results, Macy’s will certainly survive and perhaps once again thrive once they complete the job of reducing store count and modifying their store experience.

“Sears, which has historically been known by many professional retailers as more of a mass market player, will leave a legacy of brands but will likely need the benefits of bankruptcy to rightsize their infrastructure,” he added. “The name Sears will certainly live on, but the financial entity will likely cease to exist in its present form.

“On a global basis, many department stores will thrive by providing a thrilling, unique store experience anchored by unique product and service offerings. The department store form has existed for more than 200 years. I predict it will evolve and eventually thrive for another 200.”

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