By Mark Ryski
By any measure, empirical and anecdotal, the number of people visiting retail stores is down. There are plenty of theories about why: it’s the mass movement of shoppers to online; it’s changing consumer preferences; it’s the weather; it’s those pesky, hard-to- figure-out millennials who would rather hunt for Pokémon than bargains at the mall.
As Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform describes in his compelling and disturbing article, The Retail Death Rattle, the decline in retail traffic may be a result of more obvious and, ultimately, troubling reasons. Too many retail stores chasing too few consumers who have less money to spend. This is a bad combination.
As someone who has studied brick-and-mortar store traffic trends for more than 20 years, I believe that Jim’s apocalyptic conclusions may be directionally correct. Headlines like Gap Tumbles as Dismal Store Traffic Drags Down July Sales recently published on Bloomberg.com supports his thesis.
As retail traffic analysts, my team and I analyze store traffic from thousands of retail stores across North America monthly, and it’s not unusual to see year-over-year store traffic declines of 5%, 10% and even 20% or more. When you put this in absolute terms, it can be startling...