Stop retail stores closing: the solution is out there

Physical retail is under fire, stores are closing, and the figures don’t add up. But why, when there are so many clear examples of what works?



Retail stores are deep in the fog of war, in a place where there is no consensus, only confusion. This isn’t a crisis, it’s a correction, says’s retail industry pages of the situation in North America.

“According to the 2007 Economic Census, there were 1.2 million retail establishments in the United States and a total of 14.2 billion square feet of retail space”.

That means that there is approximately 46.6 square feet of retail space per capita in the U.S., compared to two square feet per capita in India, 1.5 in Mexico, 23 in the UK, and 13 in Canada. 

Rightsizing or no, figures don’t add up or conflict with one another. Here’s The Telegraph on the UK’s terrible holiday season:

“High Street retailers suffered a torrid Christmas
with sales falling 2.2pc in December.”

And BBC News only eleven days later…

“UK retail sales in December were up 5.3% on a year ago – the fastest annual sales growth in more than nine years.”

Which is weird, because I swear our high streets look like the gap-toothed grin of Cletus Spuckler.

So retail is or isn’t under fire. Either way, stores are closing, and the figures don’t add up. But why, when there are so many clear examples of what works? Let’s pick one:

Sephora has captured more than 20% share of the cosmetic and fragrance market in the United States. Its sales associates effectively cross-sell products, unlike many department stores who approach the business by brands. And it’s quick to embrace new service ideas and new technologies.

Is Sephora a revolution in retail or back to basics? Retail is detail. Sephora has not only remembered that, it has applied the same unfussy precision that makes a shopping experience great – from corner- to department store – across its digital space. More than that, it embraced technology to improve the physical when everyone else stopped evolving at barcodes.  All with a fixed gaze on Sam Walton’s most prescient quote:

“There is only one boss. The customer.
And she can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending her money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton


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