An Interesting 2016 So Far

We keep our eyes on the retail world throughout the year, of course, both because we’re part of that world in our way, and because we’re also shoppers. Looking for news, trends, changes in the way people shop (just think of how many different ways you can use to pay nowadays) and all sorts of other interesting topics. And so we had the idea of keeping you posted on those news items that may affect the 2016 Black Friday season for retailers and shoppers alike.

Perhaps most notable so far this year are the varying fortunes of those actually doing the business in the world of shopping. Quite a few well known retailers are experiencing significant change, including a few who look to be struggling to the point of extinction in the first few months of the year.

Sears, to name just one major retail brand, has come up on tough times, or perhaps more accurately has continued a difficult period that was fomenting for years. Most recently the company borrowed half a billion dollars as part of a 15 month secured loan they hope will fuel a turnaround that is crucial to the viability of the age old company. They’re banking on their loyalty program being at the forefront of those efforts. Store closings are also rumored to be in the offing. It certainly feels more and more like the company founded in 1886 is barely holding on, though as is true with every retailer, we’re rooting for them. (Retailing Today).

If you can believe it, JC Penney stock is now being recommended by analysts in the financial world. Of course, one reason for this may be the “nowhere to go but up” attitudes prevalent in the world of stocks and bonds. But it is also true that the company that seemed to be on the brink of disaster just one year ago, and was truly in a state of decline for significantly longer than that, seems to be rebounding rather mightily. The rosy picture painted by some is good news for other struggling businesses in their niche.(Daily Finance)

As we’ve previously mentioned here, Amazon stole the headlines in February by increasing the minimum required to receive free shipping to $49. This $14 increase was greeted with significant disdain by shoppers, who sprinted to social media sites to express their displeasure. Of course, the world’s largest retailer has clung to their strategy of using their Prime memberships to bring in revenue via digital downloads of books, movies and such, along with add on sales, and of course, the $99 membership fee for a one year membership to their popular service. While there is now more incentive than ever to become a member, there are numerous voices we’re hearing practically screaming that they will simply shop elsewhere. Only time and quarterly numbers will tell just how many hold out, and whether and how much it hurts the Seattle based Goliath in the proverbial wallet. On the positive side, the company says they’re working hard to add PayPal as a possible form of payment on their site in 2016.

Among other well known stores closing brick and mortar locations are big names like Gap, Office Depot, Walgreens, Sports Authority and more. While some of those stores are part of various “restructuring” plans, it certainly seems that many large stores are going “smaller” and shifting large parts of their revenue creation process to online selling.

Among companies that took advantage of bankruptcy in the past year were some fairly powerful names in the world of shopping. Beale’s, American Apparel, Radio Shack, Deb, Pac Sun, Wet Seal and countless others have used financial regulations to rebuild, regroup, or simply find a pathway out. While some are now recovering, others have shifted to online only business models. Sadly, some have disappeared entirely. (CNBC)

In the “good news” category, the National Retail Federation reported that 40,000 new jobs were added in the retail sector in March of 2016. Of course, we’re big supporters of wage increases for folks who work in the sector, and there were signs that this was happening, at least temporarily. We’re among those hoping to see that trend continue.

We are slightly less than one quarter into 2016, and retail can be difficult to predict. However, we’re among those who believe that last year’s big numbers will at least be matched this Black Friday (now a season more than just a day) as consumers pocket a bit more money in an economy which seems to be continuing it’s recovery from the 2008 downturn. (National Retail Federation.)